Chile’s submission for the 90th Academy Awards might nab history’s first Oscar nomination for a trans performer.
A Fantastic Woman, which recently began press screenings in the States, stars Daniela Vega as Marina, a gorgeous, captivating trans woman who fends off cruel and violent attacks from the family of her cis lover. While Marina’s gender identity doesn’t start out front and center, her story’s painful and heartbreaking trajectory is sure to elicit empathy from even the most cynical audience members.
“What are you doing with your empathy?” Vega asked IndieWire. “Because there are a lot of … Marinas in the world. Love doesn’t escape a trans body. We think that love is as genuine as any other, so we wanted to show it. So that we ask ourselves — ‘Why we don’t see it more often?’”
The director of A Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Lelio, hired Vega as a creative consultant before handing her the starring role. The result, according to early reviews, has been a moving and realistic depiction of the day-to-day experience of trans people.
“I was trying to make a film as complex and as free as its main character, and I owe that to Dani,” said Lelio.
Vega, for her part, found herself placing a considerable amount of trust in Lelio before tackling her character’s most harrowing scenes.
“[Lelio is] capable of reaching into the actors and bringing out the most beautiful feelings and bringing them into the world,” said Vega. “He is the person who gave me all the confidence to say: ‘Yes, let’s do the scene without clothes, the violent scenes, the fantasy scenes.”
A Fantastic Woman, which Sony Pictures Classics has positioned as a frontrunner for the Foreign Language Oscar, may just secure a nomination for Vega, who is stunning and thrilling as Marina. The nomination would be an Oscar first, after years of handing Oscar nominations — and wins — to the likes cis actors like Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry), and even Jaye Davidson (The Crying Game.)
A Fantastic Woman opens in select theaters on November 17.