The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival awarded one of its top prizes to a film that centers on a gay Latino immigrant.
Jurors Willem Dafoe, Peter Fonda, Tavi Gevinson, Alessandro Nivola, and Ruth Wilson honored Guillermo Pfening, the star of Nobody's Watching (Nadie Nos Mira), with Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film.
Pfening portrays Nico, an Argentine actor who moves to New York City in the hopes of becoming an international star. The character struggles to make ends meet in his new home — to find work, permanent housing, a visa, and companionship. And, as the audience learns, he is also running from a doomed relationship with a man in the closet from his past.
"For a performance of extraordinary vulnerability and commitment that anchored the film, the Best Actor Award goes to Guillermo Pfening for Nobody’s Watching," the jurors stated in their note.
In an interview with The Advocate, Pfening stressed how the intersectional nature of Nico's identity and struggles will make him accessible for many audiences.
"Not just queer communities but all communities can find a lot in the film, which is about finding love, not getting obsessed by love," Pfening said through a translator at the Tribeca premiere.
"The film touches on so many issues that I think a large group can get excited about the film — it’s not really for a specific group. It tackles different communities," he added of the international production, which was filmed in Argentina, the United States, Spain, Brazil, and Colombia.
Director Julia Solomonoff, who liked Nico struggled when she moved from Argentina to the United States, said she wanted the central character to be gay to add to his complexity.
"One of the most fun parts of making this film was to think of the layers of the character," said Solomonoff, who unveils different aspects of the character's identity throughout the film, including his ethnicity, nationality, profession, and sexualtity.
"This is not a coming out of the closet story," she stressed. "And for me that is important, because it’s not like he came from Argentina because he couldn’t be gay in Argentina. Argentina has equal marriage, equal-right marriage since five or six years ago. [The country] had a woman president elected twice. I would say that in terms of gender rights, in terms of human rights, I would say [Argentina is] more advanced than what’s going on here."
"So for me it was very important that it was not a story of someone who only could be himself, gay, in New York. The problem is he fell in love with the wrong guy in Argentina," she concluded. "That’s another kind of problem. But yes, the different layers of his identity for me — he is gay, he is Latino, he is a man, he is an actor, he is an urban migrant with a visa expiring. He’s all those different things at the same time."
Watch the trailer for Nobody's Watching below.