90th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

SPEECH BY: Sebastián Lelio


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Q. Everyone can agree that when I saw you getting the award I shouted, and everyone probably thought I was absolutely insane.  I saw you a week ago, and I told you I was going to see you here picking up your award.  So what does that symbolize for you?  And what does it feel to give a voice to the unheard voices?
A. Well, I'm extreme ‑‑ I mean, I'm in Jupiter.  You know, like, I don't ‑‑ I can't believe that this happened.  I'm really surprised, even though I knew that the film was, you know, a frontrunner and everything, you never really ‑‑ you're never sure until you have it in your hand.  So I'm very, like, happy for the team, for the film, for what the film represents.  And, as you say, because it is a film that has managed to contribute to a necessary and urgent conversation.  I think that there no ‑‑ there's no such thing illegitimate people.  Period. 

Q. Sebastian, congratulations on this historic win.  With the ‑‑ you know, there's been recently a lot of talk about Latinos not being represented on the screen and behind the scenes as well.  You know, what can be done to bring more representation, both from Latin Americans and Latinos born in the U.S., into Hollywood?
A. Well, I guess include them in the stories, hire them for the roles, and you know, just understanding that stories come from so many different sources.  And considering the ‑‑ I am ‑‑ I don't live in the United States.  I am not an expert of what's going on here, but considering the amount of Hispanic population or Latino population, more stories should be out there.  So I have the feeling that it's a matter of time.  Things seem to be changing, so I hope that's the case. 

Q. What can be the impact of such an award in Chile where they are now discussing the law for the transgender rights?
A. Well, it has been a long struggle to have the State recognizing or acknowledging the existence of transgender people.  And now we are about to face the ‑‑ a new government, which is very right‑wing and very conservative, and I think it would mean a step backwards.  And I hope this award and film and the awareness that the film has created, the amplifier that this means helps to, yeah, give more relevance to, again, a matter that is urgent.  Because again, a transgender person is not a Class B person.  It's one of us.

Q. First, I want to know, of course you are now residing here in the United States, but are you planning, you know, to go to Chile soon?  Because I'm hoping that you want to celebrate with, you know ‑‑
A. Well, I'm ‑‑ I am from Chile.  I live in Berlin.  I've been here for a while because I made a film here, but I'm flying to Chile tomorrow.  So I'll be celebrating hopefully tomorrow night.

Q. And do you plan to meet our president to ‑‑
A. That would be amazing.  I'm expect‑ ‑‑ well, if she wants to invite us, we'll be there.

Q. I'm going to ask the question in English and Spanish and whichever you prefer to answer first.  So the movie is very open about the misconceptions about the transgender community.  Do you think Hollywood is ready to take ‑‑ give an award for best actress as someone who would have won for best actor before?  [Speaks in Spanish.]
A. If that person is interpreting a transgender role?  Is that the question? 

Q. [Speaks in Spanish.]
A. [Speaks in Spanish.]
Well, whatever the gender identity is, you know.  If an actress like Daniela, which is a woman, wins, then she should win as a woman.  I don't think we should add a transgender, you know, category.  I felt that, for me, it was very instinctive and strong decision, the knowing that I was not going to make this film without a transgender actress in the main role.  That was me.  And I think it put the film in a different dimension because of everything Daniela brought to the film, her presence, her history.  But that doesn't mean that someone like Daniela cannot interpret a cisgender role.  You know what I mean?  So I think we're not talking about freedom here, we're not stretching opportunities; we're opening them.  And I hope this is not misunderstood, because I didn't make the casting decision as a fascist decision, but as an act of freedom.

Q. I just want to ask, kind of going off of the last one, how important it was for you to cast the role of Marina authentically with a trans actress?  And do you think that the film's win will prove to other projects how important it is to cast authentically?
A. Well, casting is an art, and is probably ‑‑ well, if you're interested in people like I am, casting is essential.  And in this case, again, I think the presence of Daniela brought something, a quality to a story that add a layer of complexity and beauty that, I think in this case, a cisgender actor would have not been capable of bringing.  She transitioned like 14 years ago in a country like Chile when there was no information about it.  She was a pioneer, and she carries that history, and the camera announced that.  And I think that generates resonances and, again, more complexity and beauty to the film.  I never thought that it was going to be that important in the sense of how the film is perceived.  I've been very surprised and happy to realize that that became one of the most important artistic gestures of the movie, and if it can contribute to, you know, again, keep opening the limits of what's possible, keep expanding the horizons of our thinking, so welcome.

Q. [Speaks in Spanish.] 
A. [Speaks in Spanish.]



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