Berlinale: Sebastián Silva

Sebastian SilvaSPOILER ALERT: Director Sebastián Silva reveals all about himself and Nasty Baby.

by Joanna Orland

As complex of a character that Sebastián Silva is, one thing that stands out with the director is his brutal honesty – in his work and in conversation.  He’s one of those lucky people whose mind works at a million miles per hour, with fresh ideas and talent in abundance.  “I don’t really have so many plans for myself or my career.  Things kind of just fall into place,” claims Silva.  And I believe him as this is the feeling that exudes from his latest film Nasty Baby.

Somewhat of an independent film festival ‘it boy’, Chilean director Sebastián Silva has upped the stakes by bringing his latest work Nasty Baby to this year’s Berlinale international film festival.  Known for his bizarre duo of films starring Michael Cera (Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and Magic Magic) as well as his award-winning feature The Maid, Silva shifts focus to the story of gay couple Freddy and Mo (Silva, Tunde Adebimpe) trying to have a baby with their closest female friend Polly (Kristen Wiig).  At its core, the film is about human nature, primal urges and morality.

While inadvertently tackling issues of diversity through making a film featuring an interracial homosexual couple, Silva never meant to make a statement with Nasty Baby.  “To be completely honest with you, I forgot I’m gay since age 14.  It’s not really a topic to me.  The fact that there’s a gay couple in my movie, it means really nothing.  I’m not trying to make a point,” says Silva.  “I talked to my PR people and I really asked them to sort of not box this movie into a gay movie because I feel that that’s also a very infantile way of dealing with movies that have black people or gay people. Not because a movie has black people, it’s a black movie,” he continues.  “A gay movie would be a movie that likes to suck dick.  You know what I’m saying?  There’s no such a thing as a gay movie, it’s the wrong term.  I don’t understand it, so I try to stay away from it.”

Silva conceived the idea of Nasty Baby through his past experience with a neighbour from his old Chilean neighbourhood.  As he always fantasized about himself in this lead role, Silva decided to cast himself as artist Freddy, a contemporary artist who is obsessed with having a baby, while struggling with a conflict between him and his crazy neighbour who calls himself ‘the Bishop’.  On directing himself, Silva says, “I had to trust my DP who I worked with on 4 movies. He’s a Chilean guy that has a really good eye for bad acting.”  Balancing acting and directing came naturally to Silva.  “From set I found that you can direct a lot as well, especially if you’re the leading character.  You can rush a scene, you can give it more energy or less energy,” he explains.

While tackling the lead role himself, Silva has developed a habit in his films of working with comedic actors in more dramatic roles.  First there was Michael Cera in Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic, and now Kristen Wiig as Polly in Nasty Baby.  “I find that comedic actors can often play the most dramatic roles, just because, i don’t know, having a sense of humour for me means that you’re intelligent and you have emotional intelligence,” he says.  “They’re usually very observant so they can convey a broader spectrum of emotions.”

On the topic of emotions, Silva bears all in Nasty Baby as an artist who feels the need to humiliate himself as penance for ‘selfishly’ wanting to bring a new life into the world.  To cope with his guilt of making more babies when there are many who already need adopting, Freddy creates his latest art installation with ‘baby’ as the focus, with him and his friends immersing themselves into the role of a baby.  “Have you tried to do a baby? It’s really painful.  It’s really painful for your ego, it’s painful for the people around you, it’s just a really painful exercise to do,” admits Silva.  “Embarrassing yourself to the point of humiliation – it’s really good for your ego. You humiliate yourself before anyone does, so then there’s no room to be humiliated.”

As the film begins with one tone and ends with another, on the surface, Nasty Baby seems as though it would be quite a tough balancing act to direct.  “I’m a pretty light-hearted man, but I also go through, like, states of depression, you know what I’m saying? Just like everyone else I guess. And I try not to sort of narrow myself to one sort of mood in a movie – it would feel like really artificial to me to do that,” says Silva, as honestly as ever.


Read our review of Nasty Baby.

Leave a Reply