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‘Fantastic Woman’ Director Sebastián Lelio On Lesbian Love Story, ‘Disobedience’

Director Sebastián Lelio’s landmark film about the struggles of a transgender women, A Fantastic Woman, won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Now, Lelio has written and directed a new movie, Disobedience, about a woman who returns to the Orthodox Jewish community that shunned her for her attraction to a female friend.

WBEZ film contributor and Facets Chicago director Milos Stehlik spoke with Lelio about his new film, what inspires him as a filmmaker, and his background in Chile. Here are some interview highlights.

On themes that intrigued him in his film ‘Disobedience’

Sebastián Lelio: [I am attracted to] the tension between beauty and desire, and the tension between individual freedom and what the community needs. I’m attracted to those type of problems.

I really love characters when they are forced towards evolutionary crossroads. They are facing dilemmas and have to decide. Because they are under an important amount of pressure, we get to see what they are really made of.

On making films that tell women’s stories

Lelio: I have been very moved by these stories, by the idea of taking these characters that are somehow on the fringes of society or narratives. I put them in the center and create these complex portraits of them, and make them go through an entire emotional spectrum — see them fall and stand up again.There’s something about that gesture that really moves me.

On working as a filmmaker in Chile

Lelio: When [Chileans] started to make films, we were coming out of a process of reconstruction of national cinema. During the dictatorship years in the 1970s and 1980s, national cinema in Chile almost died.

I belong to that generation that went back to the recently reopened film schools. So we come from a place of pure hunger. And when we made our first films, they had no destination, no other purpose other than making them. That’s the secret, from operating from that same place of hunger, in terms of artistic hunger, and urgent hunger for cinema. That can be applicable to any language or territory.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.

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