Sebastián Lelio´s Recourrent Theme

in 67th Berlin International Film Festival

by Myrna Silveira Brandão

Director talks to FIPRESCI about his new movie

Sebastián Lelio has focused his work on stories about strong women. His new film, A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica), won the screenplay award at the 67th edition of the Berlinale, where it was in the running for the Golden Bear. Lelio previous film Glória won several awards at the 2013 Berlinale, among them the Ecumenical Prize and the Silver Bear for best actress for Paulina García.

A Fantastic Woman follows Marina (Daniela Vega), a transsexual who tries to earn a living as a singer in a club with dubious reputation in Santiago. Things take a turn for the worse after the sudden death of her boyfriend Orlando. She will have to face the repudiation of Orlando’s family, since no one wants her around, but Marina has no intention of leaving the scene. The story takes place over four days and also in the cast are AlineKuppenheim, Luis Gnecco and AmparoNoguera.

In an interview for FIPRESCI, Lelio explained his predilection for strong women in his films.

“The character Marina Vidal and the actress Daniela were an inspiration,” said Lelio. “Marina and her bravery push the film to a point of daring that, perhaps I as filmmaker, could not have imagined. Focusing the story on a strong woman is mainly a product of an intuition, not a product of a premeditated thematic agenda There is an interest on my part to speak of the feminine, to explore it, to portray it, which comes from a place that is much more intuitive than intellectual.”

“Marina is a person who oscillates, changes and refuses to be defined in only one word. In that sense, the movie resonates with her character because the story and its own identity also oscillate and change… Marina struggled to transform and succeeded. She is completely prepared for the world – the problem is that the world is not ready for her,” he said.

In real life, Vega is also a transsexual. She was born as a man and at the age of 15 began her transition. Her family understood and helped in the transformation. Lelio said that the decision to choose Daniela for the role was fundamental for the making of the film.

“The fact that Daniela is a trans woman makes us forget any theory about it. She is not an actress representing someone: she Is, simply. Behind all the sophisticated narrative that the film has, there is someone real who creates a very special tension in the context of the story,” he explained.

The director has been living in Berlin since 2013, but everything indicates that his heart remains in his native country. “I live in Berlin, but I think every day in Chile. This is a powerful city and distance has a side that allows me to look at the Chilean reality in another way.”

We asked about his expectations for A Fantastic Woman at Berlinale. “It is difficult to predict what can happen,” he answered. “When someone makes a movie it is so close to him that he paradoxically fails to see it. But I am very curious to see how it will be received. I think the Berlinale is a very strong showcase and it is a privilege for me that so many people watch the film at its birth. The fact that Sony bought the film and the enthusiasm that it has awakened are signs of interest.”

And what about his next project? “At the moment, I’m finishing a movie called Disobedience, starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz,” revealed the 43-year- old filmmaker.

Edited by Yael Shuv