Receiving its world premiere in the Karlovy Vary Documentary Competition section, El Bella Vista is a quirky yet moving documentary about Uruguayan brothel El Bella Vista, its transvestite inhabitants and the small village community that wants to remove them and change the brothel into a Catholic School.

ScreenDaily asks director Alicia Cano about the film’s origins and the importance of premiering at the festival. World sales for El Bella Vista are handled by Taskovski Films.

How did you find out El Bella Vista and what led you to make a film about it?

It was reading a newspaper that said “A brothel is now a place for prayers; the neighbors got sick of the noise and decided to transform a house of prostitution into the house of God.” As soon as I read it, I found it so curious and familiar to my own memories at the same time (I also come from a small city), that I decided to go to the village to see if it was true. When I arrived I discovered that the new church was not only previously a brothel (one for transvestites at that) and before it was a soccer clubhouse. And in this moment I said to myself: ‘This is a film.’

What kind of preparation went into making the movie?

I stayed over one year [with the villagers] making interviews about their life, thoughts, in order to understand what I really wanted to say with this movie, and the underlying reasons in the Bella Vista’s conflict. After many months I explained to each of them my idea and how I wanted to tell the story. Then they could add ideas, share concerns and points of view on how they wanted to tell the story themselves.

And what about the shooting and subsequent construction of the film?

The characteristic of the film is that my protagonists recreate the past from the present and play with this all the time. This is due to their own characteristic: they are always acting themselves. During the research period, when I was making interviews, people used to stand up and start moving in the space, using their bodies to explain to me how things were. They are not intellectual people that can stay for two hours speaking on a table. The film is illustrative of their way of living, and a conclusion of our process together. For me, El Bella Vista about prejudices. It is a movie on how prejudices can change, although in the end nothing has really changed. It’s part of human nature; people have behaved like this for a long time. And the heart of the matter is that all of the characters are seeking the same thing: to be loved. There is where the universality of this story lies.

How do you feel about premiering at Karlovy Vary?

I am very happy to start my film in Eastern Europe. Somehow I feel that our cultures are very closed and many Czech people can identify with this reality even if it comes from far away. This is my first film, so I am curious to see how a premiere of my film in a foreign country looks like!

For more Screen coverage of Karlovy Vary, click here.