Sebastian Lelio‘s star has been on the rise for quite some time. His first few films (including 2005’s The Sacred Family and 2011’s The Year of the Tiger) were festival darlings that earned him awards in Locarno, Austin, Geneva, Lima and Viña del Mar among others. And if his touching take on a Chilean woman’s midlife crisis starring Paulina Garcia, Gloria (2013), propelled him to even further international recognition, nothing could have prepared him for how his latest film would be received. A Fantastic Woman, now a Goya winner and an Oscar nominee, is a triumphant meditation on grief, identity, and the prejudices that still linger in our societies.
Starring trans actress Daniela Vega, Lelio’s film follows Marina Vidal, a young woman who suffers the loss of her partner Orlando and then has to deal with the fallout with his ex-wife and son. Neither had warmed up to the idea of him dating a trans woman and they have no qualms about letting her know just how little they think of her. A character study that’s as indebted to Busby Berkeley musicals and Buster Keaton comedies, A Fantastic Woman plunges audiences deep into the Santiago that Marina experiences, giving us plenty of close-ups that showcase the masterful performance that anchors the entire film.
Mere days before the drama nabbed Chile its second-ever Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Remezcla sat down to talk with Lelio about one of the most breathtaking sequences in his movie which is set at a gay bar in Santiago. Hit play on the video above to watch Lelio explain why he flirted with so many styles to capture the fantastic protagonist of his fifth feature film, which he describes as a “transgenre film about a transgender woman.”