By Liz Lopez
“Original Sin” (“Pecado Original”) had its Texas premiere at the 25th Annual Austin Film Festival in competition in the Comedy Vanguard category. Director/Writer: Jean Lee presents her feature directorial debut, “Original Sin” (“Pecado Original”) and stars an international cast, including Maia Nikiphoroff, an up-and-coming star from Paraguay, alongside costars Alejandro Torres Menchaca from Mexico and César Di Bello from Spain. This one hour and fifteen minute Spanish language rom – com certainly has humor and drama as is to be expected when there are characters in a marriage that do not have the same sense of satisfaction as husband and wife. The script is engaging and does have some great performances, more so when the three characters, a married couple and an artist, are talking out their differences in the home. I certainly look forward to seeing the actors in future films.
“Original Sin (Pecado Original) explores a woman yearning for liberation from the mundane and fighting to upturn buried truths―albeit in an imperfect and broken way,” notes director Jean Lee. “And as the comedy ensues, she begins to confront her own desires―some of them flawed, but all of them worthy of being addressed and recognized. In the guise of absurd humor, we the filmmakers hope to start a dialogue about what it means to live in a world in which people are locked into upholding appearances and pleasing others, rather than endeavoring for what is true and right. Also – to ask important, feminist questions like can blowjobs ever be empowering to women and what really is the average size of a penis?”
Hopefully, the film will have a theatrical run in the United States, but if not, it will make an excellent selection if it becomes available via online platforms.
After moving to Spain for her husband, Eva (Maia Nikiphoroff), a Paraguayan woman of class and elegance who always behaves in an appropriate way, finds herself bored, unhappy, and sexually frustrated. After Eva compulsively buys a provocative and offensive piece of art, the painter Luis (Alejandro Torres Menchaca) shows up to hand-deliver his work. Their sexual tension grows until they inevitably end up in bed. When Eva’s husband, Adrian (César Di Bello) returns home early, an absurd battle of strengths and weaknesses among the three characters ensues. “Pecado Original” is a timely film on female empowerment and sexual politics. A farce in the tradition of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!,” the film throws hyper-repressed characters into absurd situations with explosive results. From “accidentally” purchasing an erotic painting, to fellating her uptight husband for the very first time, the story is largely told through Eva’s perspective as she confronts society’s rules of female propriety with the greatest irreverence.
The ‘erotic’ art work in the film is by Cacho Falcon (also associate producer and poster artist.)
Austin Film Festival “Pecado Original” [Original Sin] Interview with filmmakers and cast
EL- Where did the idea for the script come from?
Jean Lee [JL]: Cesar and Maia had auditioned for another film and they had a connection during that time they met.
Maia Nikiphoroff [MN] – The story happened between Jean and I. We wanted to make a film with a low budget and three actors and one place. We came up with the story.
JL – I wanted to write a compelling story for women in life. We asked women friends, friends of friends, etc. to share some ideas. [These are real life, yet they seem absurd, but real telenovela –like. Then we thought what if we “upped” it, even if sounds crazy.
MN – WE explore the three characters who are about to explode. They face each other and this is a cathartic experience.
JL – From the protagonist’s perspective – it is about women’s experiences, especially Latinas); all the stereotypes we have experienced. It is still relevant.
EL- This is a question for all of you. Will you share a/some challenges you had with this film experience?
Alejandro Torres Menchaca – One of the biggest was to overcome all about nudity – the process. I was not uncomfortable on the set, but I had to make peace with it. How I look…you hear women say this more than men, but I had to make peace with it. As this character, I grew. A part of this character made me grow as a person.
César Di Bello – I was always open – minded, so it was challenging to become more “closed.” He (the character) judged himself, based on what the family taught. He is sensitive and has developed a wall, thus he feels strong within those walls.
Maia – I grew up with men like Adrian (Cesar’s character) and also more macho, but I can see Adrian is putting up a facade. The challenge was letting go, regarding the writing process, as it was the first time and also tapping into the actor. The biggest is trust. You go closed eyed to the set and trust Jean (as director). I went with my instincts, then I heard Jean’s perspective. I was too involved as the character (Eva).
Jean: For me (as well as others), the stakes were high. It is challenging as it is a high risk, with a small budget and limited time. We invested in what we believed and took a leap of faith. For me personally, I work 3-4 part time jobs and have a responsibility to help the family.
EL – Small budget means the film was self- finanaced?
JL – Absolutely! There were some investors that the three of us (producers) found.
MN – The three of us (Jean, Maia, Cesar) are producers and we go all in.
EL – Your experience as producers?
MN- Yes, we are all producing the feature. Jean has one past producing credit (first for Maia and Cesar). It forced us to think outside the box and find what is the shortest way to go.
Source: Rabiffulo Pictures, Foster Productions, Sector Siete Films