Scene from "A Fantastic Woman"

Francisco Reyes and Daniela Vega in Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman)

Directed by Sebastian Lelio (Gloria, Disobedience) A Fantastic Woman won the Best Screenwriting Award at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival and, since then, it has been receiving rave reviews and recognition around the world.

A revolutionary film for an ultra-conservative country like Chile, the story revolves around Orlando (Francisco Reyes) a 57-year-old textile company executive with a marriage and family, and a love affair with Marina, a beautiful and much younger trans woman who works as a waitress in a restaurant. After Orlando suddenly dies from an aneurysm, Marina - played by real trans actress Daniela Vega - needs to confront his family and the Chilean society, including the Justice Department, that views her sexual identity as a complete perversion.

Lelio is famous for his great skill directing female actors (currently he is doing the English version of Gloria with Julianne Moore, and Rachel Weisz chose him to direct the upcoming Disobedience). Sebastian says that with A Fantastic Woman, he wanted to question the Chilean society.”I don’t have answers but I like to question the society regarding morality, justice, empathy, and love.” Talking about how he constructed Marina’s character he adds,” I went back to women I know like my mother, grandmother, aunts, friends, resilient women capable of confronting adversity. She is a dignified and rebellious girl even if she is a woman on the border of society, whom society rejects. The story traces the emergence from the devastating grief of the young transgender protagonist, who is treated like a pariah, in the wake of her older lover’s abrupt death.”

Daniela Vega was working in a beauty salon in Santiago, Chile when Lelio, who wrote the screenplay especially for her, discovered her. While A Fantastic Woman is politically important regarding trans rights issues, not one word of direct advocacy comes up in the film. Instead, it focuses on a woman alone reeling from loss, attacked by a cold family and society as a whole.

Lelio wrote the screenplay with Gonzalo Maza, his co-screenwriter on Gloria and earlier films.