Text: PAULA MONTEBRUNO
“I’ll probably end up dedicating myself to painting over film, despite the fact that things are going so well for me.”
Multifaceted, self-taught and creative, this young Chilean director only spent a few months at film school. He is also a musician – with a band and albums to show for his efforts – and an artist (painting is his passion, he tells us). Nowadays, though, Sebastián Silva is wowing the crowds as a filmmaker. His second feature, La nana (2009), was nominated for a 2010 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Picture, making it the first Chilean film to earn this distinction. It didn’t win, but the film – which tells the story of a maid and was filmed in the same house where Silva grew up – has been earning praise from international critics for some time now. In 2009, La nana won awards at a number of festivals, including Sundance, where it garnered the Jury Prize for Best International Dramatic Feature and its star, Catalina Saavedra, took home the Special Jury Prize for her brilliant performance.
Were you expecting the success that your film has had abroad, especially in the United States?
“I truly didn’t expect it, but I didn’t think that the film would go unnoticed either. After I had seen the final cut, I realized that the film had turned out well. I can say that honestly and without any kind of arrogance. You just know whether a film is good or a failure.”
Why do you think the audience has identified with the story?
“Because it’s a film that emphasizes emotional conflicts, which people are faced with every » day. It’s principally an emotional film, and not so much about political or social issues. I think that’s why people identify with it easily. The movie may be specific to its location, in the sense that it takes place in Chile and the maids speak ‘Chilean,’ but this becomes incidental.”
Nonetheless, it’s the first time a Chilean film has won an award at Sundance and been nominated for a Golden Globe. How much importance do you place on awards?
“Obviously, I like to win awards, because they open new doors, but I don’t lose sleep over them. I’m actually much more interested in making my next movie than in going to the Golden Globes, but it is exciting to be considered among such talented directors.”
Are much of your films based on your personal experiences?
“It depends. My first film, La vida me mata (2007), was more existentialist in nature; it’s not at all about my life, but it does incorporate a lot of my thoughts about death, my fears and challenges. There are concepts in that movie that I still believe, but others, not so much. All my movies come from me and are related to things that concern me, so they’re a little self-referential in that sense. My films are made from the inside out rather than the outside in.”
In addition to making films, you also paint. Tell us about that.
“Well, before I started making films I was drawing, illustrating and painting. I’ve had a relationship with the graphic arts ever since I can remember. It’s the field I’m most comfortable in, and I haven’t given it up for film. I’m currently planning some exhibits in New York, and it’s something I’m very involved in. I’ll probably end up dedicating myself to painting over film, despite the fact that things are going so well for me.”
What are your upcoming projects?
“A film that I’m going to make in Chile, Gatos Viejos. It’s a fun project, and a small production like La nana, made with the same team. It’s about an old woman who is having her first bouts with senile dementia and a daughter trying to steal the few things she has left. We have shooting dates, locations, everything. I wrote the script with Pedro Peirano, and we’re going to co-direct it. Gatos Viejos is one of my last projects in Chile, at least for now, because I have several projects lined up in the U.S. and Europe.”