My name is Marialy Rivas and I’m a 35-year-old filmmaker from Chile. I’m starting off this chronicle with this statement because it contains information that has shaped me into the woman that I am and led me to make the films that I’m making. Because of my age, my childhood and pre-teen years were spent under a harsh military dictatorship, that of Augusto Pinochet. These were years in which thinking differently meant death. As a child, I couldn’t completely grasp this violent reality, but I was aware of the fear that crouched behind every corner of daily life.
As a Chilean, I come from a place where there has never been any official recognition of the violent past we’ve experienced as a country. Pinochet died without ever being brought to trial at any court, without even apologizing for all the pain he inflicted upon our society. In fact, he actually died showing pride in what he accomplished – in similar fashion to his followers (and this is at least a 40% of the country).
I profoundly believe that a country that is still unable to deal truthfully and face to face with these traumatic events is a country in which violence ends up spreading and manifesting itself in all different kinds of ways. One of them is a very deeply rooted homophobia.
I’m a lesbian, everyone around me knows it, and I don’t really care if it bothers anybody else. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful family and friends, but I live in a country in which Carlos Larrain, the president of the ruling political party, made the following declaration regarding gay marriage on television about a year ago: “Why should we support the gay community? If we did so, we would have to support groups of people that propose…I don’t know…relationships with children, or the people who support euthanasia. Because in this matter of ‘sexual orientation’ — and this is what I’ve heard — there is a wide variety of options. I understand there are also people who want to have sex with animals; there is literature on this, on zoophiles. So I don’t believe that a country’s state policies should work for different sexual preferences…”
A liberal interest group present on Twitter, Movilh (Chile’s main LGBT organization) complained and asked for a retraction. Mr. Larrain laughed it off and said he didn’t believe it was necessary. No media took actions in the matter. Nobody really cared.
Most people in Chile don’t even realize this sort of stance is rude, hurtful, hateful, and profoundly ignorant.
It is in this context that I ran into the blog of Young & Wild: a site filled with either vibrant tales of a young woman’s blunt bisexual encounters or tender and funny stories about her religious family. I fell in love instantly. The blog was written anonymously, so I couldn’t figure out if the tales were true or inventions made up by a very smart woman. She used teenage slang, mashing up words to create new concepts that spread quickly throughout the web. I was fascinated by her, as also were a lot of other followers. Some of them even proclaimed her “The new Bisexual Messiah.” She was brave enough to show the world her inner fracture: a very biting sexual nature that was completely at odds with her religious upbringing. I knew that I had to meet her and work with her (though I didn’t know how or for what), and after a few emails, she agreed.
She was a young girl, a literature student, very shy but smart and darkly funny. There was a mystery about her that I couldn’t unlock right away. I told her that I wanted to make a movie; she just nodded in consent. Her very orthodox and repressive parents have no idea that this film has even been made.
We had weeks of interviews, in which I tried to approach her life from as many points of view as possible. She showed me pictures of her youth; I visited her parents’ house when they weren’t there; I went to her church. Finally, I was ready to start writing.
I met with Pedro Peirano (screenwriter for The Maid) and we structured the movie based upon the interviews and her blog. After that, she and I wrote the dialogues and the final screenplay. It took us months to do so, but it allowed us to get to know each other better. We based the story loosely on her life, deciding that she had to be 17.
Then the pre-production came along. I was positive about who our leading actress had to be: Alicia Luz Rodríguez. She had made her debut at Cannes with Navidad when she was 15, and even though she wasn’t a professionally trained actress, she had the perfect amount of mystery in her to deliver a character that was going to have a voice over during the entire movie, constantly narrating how she wanted to make us believe that she was feeling. She also was brave enough to deal with the sex scenes and all the exposure the movie would bring along.
Starting with her, assembling the rest of the cast was a simple task. She was the light that guided the rest of the process.
I knew that the film, the people in it, and the photography that they were portrayed with all needed to be beautiful. Most of the characters were either rotten inside or very confused and in pain, but in this perfect world, there was no place to hide. I also decided to use a very tight depth of focus. This way, we could follow the character closely, and see only what she decided to pay attention to. Whatever she observes comes into focus; she is always in her mind, always a little detached from the flow of life.
The final challenge was to give a shape to the Internet world in which she lives. We worked very hard at trying to arrive at an abstract form that made the audience feel the experience of surfing the web that we all have. I really hope that we have somehow succeeded.
We also used and stole images from all over (porn movies, cartoons, old films, etc.), trying to create an on-screen mosaic of her teenage soul, which is bombarded with all kind of stimulus on a daily basis. The baroque world that we inhabit had to be present.
The final shape of the film came to in the editing room. Because the movie is told in chapters, like gospels of her life, we could have made a million different movies; it was exactly like a Rubik’s cube. The hardest part: how to balance her double love interest, for both a boy and a girl. Bisexuality is hard, including in film.
People say that it is a bold movie that looks almost like a porn flick, in that it is new and fresh. I think that if this movie is able to raise questions in people’s souls regarding how they perceive their sexuality, and of how much guilt, pain, phobia or hatred derives from absurd notions of misunderstood religion, I will be the happiest woman to walk this earth.
Every movie is an act of love, of deep passion; I really hope this can turn out to be a fantastic love story.
Young & Wild is currently playing at the Sundance Film Festival.