Ana de Armas says she’s still trying to find the right words to describe her latest project, a cinematic collaboration with Italian liqueur brand Campari that has catapulted the Cuban-born actress into a conversation about diversity, creativity, and taking risks.
“I don’t think I can even describe the feeling,” De Armas says of becoming the first Latin American-born ambassador to star in Campari’s “Red Diaries” series of short films. “It’s amazing to have even been in the conversation, when they had the whole world to choose from, and I feel honored, humbled, and emotional, because I know what it represents.”
As announced this week, the “Blade Runner 2049” actress is the face of “Entering Red,” a short film helmed by Cannes prize-winning director Matteo Garrone. Set in the streets of Milan, the birthplace of Campari, the 12-minute film follows de Armas’ eponymous character as she explores some of Milan’s most iconic sites, all while searching for a mysterious stranger (Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy) who has left behind a ring that may or may not possess a secret for her to unlock.
The moody, sweeping clip, which was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Negroni, is directed by Garrone, whose film “Dogman” was Italy’s contender for this year’s best foreign-language film Oscar. The Rome native, currently working on an adaption of “Pinocchio,” says he was drawn to the idea of making a “contemporary fairytale,” while citing the significance of working with a brand like Campari.
“As an Italian, I’ve seen a lot of great artists work with Campari in the past, including Fellini (the legendary filmmaker directed a commercial for the brand in 1984),” Garrone explains. “That gave it a very personal connection for me, and so I was very proud to be a part of this project.”
For de Armas, the chance to work with Garrone was a huge motivating factor in taking on the campaign. “Matteo is a director I’ve admired for a long time, but I never knew how I, as a Cuban actress in America, could get to him, as a big Italian director in Europe,” she says. “When this came my way, it was like a dream come true.”
De Armas says she was drawn to “Entering Red” not only because of Garrone’s vision for the film, which illuminated iconic Milanese monuments like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Duomo in a sea of “Campari red,” but also because it was a story told from the perspective of a strong female protagonist.
“Right now, the conversation about positive representation for women is stronger and louder and more active than ever,” she says. “I’ve always felt that as an actress, it’s important to look for characters that have a voice and a story to tell.”
In the case of “Entering Red,” de Armas — who appears in almost every frame of the film — says she’s proud to portray a women who finds her power and owns who she really is. “This character follows her passions and takes risks and that’s a great message for audiences,” de Armas says, “especially today.”
Campari was a main sponsor of the Venice International Film Festival and the brand’s reps say they will have a presence at the Costume Designers Guild Awards as well. Previous Campari campaigns have featured stars like Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Zoe Saldana, and Clive Owen. Andrea Neri, managing director at Campari Group, says the “Red Diaries” film series “further continues the relationship between cinema and Campari” in an effort to find new ways for creative expression, whether through a film or cocktail. “We found a fantastic fit this year with Ana, who perfectly embodies the character and the story,” he says. “Our hope is that viewers will embrace her journey in the film and be inspired to embark on their own creative journeys as well.”
Next seen alongside Joel Kinnaman and Rosamund Pike in “The Informer” (due out this August), de Armas says she hopes global campaigns like this one with Campari will open up more doors for women of color, not only in terms of representation on screen, but also in how they’re being represented.
“Yes I am a Cuban-born actress and this is an iconic Italian brand, but I liked that this campaign broke away from any stereotypes,” de Armas says. “It’s not always about playing who you are, to represent your community on screen; it’s also about playing who you’re not, and playing a character people are not expecting from you, to surprise and challenge perceptions. Otherwise,” she says, “you may land a role in something cool, but you’re still putting yourself into a box.”
And for the little girl who grew up in a small fishing village in Cuba, whose face will now be seen by millions around the world: “Who says what is and is not meant to be for me?” de Armas asks. “That’s the exciting thing about this project. Where you’re from doesn’t have to dictate where you’ll end up. Go after things you’re not supposed to do, and challenge yourself to play characters you’re not supposed to play. Why limit yourself?”