- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Director Sebastian Lelio feels that “A Fantastic Woman” has gone beyond the cinematic experience with its social message, to a great extent thanks to the performance of its star, Daniela Vega.

The film follows Marina, a transgender woman who, after the passing of her older lover, is mistreated by his family and the police officers investigating his death. It is Chile’s selection for the Academy Awards and on Monday was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the best foreign film category.

“I am very proud of Daniela, of how she faced the challenge of a movie that not only meant an absolute leading role … that goes through an emotional spectrum, but that in addition flies, faces wind storms, sings two operatic arias. In short, it’s a polytonal role of great complexity and she … didn’t have much experience so it was an all or nothing betting,” Lelio told The Associated Press in a phone interview shortly after the Globes nominations were announced.

“It was very beautiful to see how she gave herself completely and played this character with such complexity and beauty,” he added about Vega, whose performance has received Oscars buzz. If she is nominated next month, it would be the first Oscar nomination for a transgender actress.

“Somehow Daniela’s presence and the power that her body brings are the heart of the movie and it has been very nice and exciting to witness how she has become a voice not only of the movie but a sort of symbol of everything that is fragile, cornered,” said Lelio. “In some ways this is when cinema surpasses cinema and gets in the social fabric and that is very powerful.”

“A Fantastic Woman” debuted last February at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Teddy Award for best feature film as well as the Silver Bear for its screenplay, written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza. Among other honors, it has also been nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Lelio is in Los Angeles filming an English version of his acclaimed 2013 film “Gloria,” starring Oscar-winner Julianne Moore.

“It has been very exciting to be able to revisit what’s universal in the story and see a performer as powerful as Julianne Moore playing this role,” he said.

For now, he is savoring the Globes nomination, where “A Fantastic Woman” will compete against Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” (Cambodia), “In the Fade” (Germany/France), “Loveless” (Russia) and “The Square” (Sweden/Germany/France).

“It’s a joy for the team, for everyone who made this movie, to be among this select group of such powerful movies that have been selected”, the director said.

As for Vega, he said: “I spoke to her this morning and she was very happy with the news. She is already getting her dress.”

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Sigal Ratner-Arias is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner


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