Don’t call actor/director Sebástian Silva’s new film “Nasty Baby” a gay movie. The filmmaker, who happens to be gay and happens to be from Chile, would also prefer not to be simply labeled as a “gay filmmaker” or a “Latino filmmaker.” He and his movie are much more than that.
It’s evident in “Nasty Baby” that Silva wants to pull the rug out from under his audience and turn what many people would consider a film about a homosexual couple (Silva and Tunde Adebimpe) trying to conceive a baby with their best friend (Kristen Wiig) into something completely different. He wants viewers to forget they’re watching a movie with gay characters and focus first on the fact that all of the characters are flawed. The Berlin International Film Festival took notice this year when it honored Silva with the Teddy Award, Berlin’s prize for the best queer film; the accolade’s presentation included a statement that said “Nasty Baby” “symbolizes major divides that cut across the LGBT spectrum and across society.”
I caught up with Silva to discuss the film, why he thinks the sexual preferences of his characters are unimportant, and how the industry needs to start normalizing the gay lifestyle.
I’m a little surprised this is your first lead role in a film. You’re a pretty good actor.
(Laughs) That’s not acting. That was just me in front of a camera. I don’t think I’m an actor. The thing I was truly scared of as a performer is the scene where I had to kill that man. I was like, “How the fuck am I going to act that out?” I had no reference. I’ve never killed anybody. I have no friends who have killed anybody. I thought people were just going to have to deal with the way I ended up reacting after doing it. Other than that one scene, I felt like I was just being myself among friends.
The film’s title, “Nasty Baby,” is the name of a performance art piece your character is working that features him and his friends pretending to be babies. As an artist yourself, do you consider what your character is creating to be art? Is that something you would go to a gallery and watch yourself or are you trying to mock the pretentiousness of some art?
(Laughs) I fucking love that question, man. I don’t go to galleries so much. When it comes to performance art or video art, I’m usually very unsatisfied and confused. I never know what to make of them. I’m a dumb audience for art. I like to be amused and entertained and moved, but when I need to make too much effort or read about someone’s cultural background to understand I just get lazy. In the case of “Nasty Baby,” if I go into a gallery and see grown-ups portraying babies, I’d probably find it at least amusing, but I wouldn’t consider it a piece of art.
The cast is very diverse. Was that a conscious decision?
You know, it was not necessarily a conscious decision. It wasn’t like a U.N. decision. The fact that there is a black character involved in the killing of another black character keeps that murder away from race issues. It makes the murder a fucked-up sort of crime that is beyond race. I was trying to escape that cliché, common ground argument.
Click HERE to read the rest of my interview at Tribecafilm.com