SANTIAGO, Chile — At the Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) to present Luis Ortega’s “El Angel,” Argentine actress Mercedes Morán also gave actor’s studio on Wednesday night for local industry professionals and aspiring filmmakers and actors. A long time pillar of Spanish-language cinema, Argentine actress Morán is having a year that most actors could only dream of. And she is fully aware of her good fortune.
“It’s like a fantasy, right?” she wondered. “Any actress who loves cinema wants to have films that are circulating. And what cinema allows us to do, unlike theater, is to travel, and one can go where the film goes. It makes me very happy when I can travel with the movies and meet the people who make movies.”
However, to chalk up her current wave of international recognition to good fortune is to do the actress a disservice. Morán has put in her time, nurtured relationships with the best filmmakers Latin America has to offer, and fined tuned her craft to a degree that resulted in a best actress award at this year’s Karlovy Vary festival for her performance in Ana Katz’s “Sueño Florianópolis.”
Of course, that’s just one of the four films that Morán features in making the international festival rounds this year. Luiz Ortega’s “El Angel” premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard, which has opened in Argentina this month hauling in the largest-ever box office for a domestic film in pesos, and the fifth largest week in terms of admissions. It was also the opening film at Sanfic. Earlier this month “An Unexpected Love,” a film co-staring Argentina’s biggest international marquee draw, Ricardo Darín, enjoyed domestic box office success as well, and will open the San Sebastián Festival in September. Finally, the actress starred in María Alché’s “A Family Submerged” which played in the Filmmakers of the Present section at the Locarno Festival earlier this month.
If traveling is something the actress enjoys, she’s certainly had the opportunity this year.
Although her run of form in 2018 is obvious, the Moránaissance kicked off in earnest with her powerhouse performance as Argentine painter and writer, and wife of Chile’s most iconic writer Pablo Neruda, Delia del Carril, in Pablo Larraín’s Golden Globe-nominated “Neruda,” where she starred along-side Mexico’s Gael García Bernal and her good friend and countryman Luis Gnecco, who also appears in “El Angel.”
“I really wanted to work with Pablo Larraín,” she recalled. “I had seen his films ‘The Club’ and ‘No,’ and I loved the character, the story and the script (for Neruda). So I came to Chile and I remember meeting him, and when he saw me he said, ‘Oh, you’re a little young for the character.’ I never thought that those words in the life of an actress could cost her a role!”
The observation earned one of many bursts of laughter from the Sanfic audience.
After revisiting a number of her better-known performances for Latin America’s most recognizable filmmakers such as Larraín and Katz, as well as Juan José Campanella and Lucrecia Martel, the conversation moved on to “El Angel,” and the experience working with Luis Ortega.
“Before he even gave me the script I said ‘yes,’” she recalled. “We wanted to work together for a long time. When I got the script, I really loved this character; so pretty, so dark. More conventional heroines don’t interest me so much.”
According to Morán, the experience of filming with Ortega lived up to her high expectations.
“Working with Luis is like a party. He’s similar to Lucrecia (Martel) in the sense that when they are on set, they are so inspired. And there is something about the way they live each moment; their inspiration generates a current around them that’s very magnetic. It feels like something that doesn’t happen on every set.”
Having already received numerous awards and nominations in Spanish-language countries, Morán was asked what it meant to her to participate in and win awards at major festivals in other parts of the world.
“When it is also outside your home, your country,” she explained, “where they don’t know you, where their judgment is exempt from any prejudice, it’s nice because you feel valued.”
She went on to put the success of her recent films in a larger context, explaining that the independent, auteur nature of these projects adds to the feeling of accomplishment.
“When the prizes are obtained with these kinds of films, like the one at Karlovy Vary (“Sueño Florianópolis), the most important thing is how they serve as support for other similar films. They’re not very big, with large budgets, with super distribution. For these films the awards are really significant because a prize promotes the film. More people will go see it. I enjoy it more when prizes are given to films like that because I think they serve a greater purpose.”
The evening finished with a final, personal reflection on what this year has meant to her.
“I know this is a special year, absolutely unrepeatable; so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”