By Josh Gardner
Argentine superstar Valeria Bertuccelli arrived at the Sundance Film Festival, to world premiere her new film, The Queen of Fear, co-directed with Fabiana Tiscornia. Not only does Bertuccelli give a fearless performance, but this is also her impressive debut feature as a screenwriter and director. The film follows neurotic actress Robertina as she prepares for the opening of a one-woman show, finding new ways to procrastinate rehearsal all while confronting internal struggles. The endlessly charming Bertuccelli sat down with TropicalFRONT for an exclusive interview where we discussed her inspirations, fears, and filmmaking future.
Enjoying a hugely successful career as an actress, Bertuccelli felt it was time for a change. “When I got my start, at the age of 18, I was doing theater and writing my own works, but I eventually became known primarily as a film and television actress. I felt called to this work, leaving my other creative passions behind. Yet, I was hit with the feeling that it was necessary to take a risk and return to my roots, to dig deeper into myself with something of my own. I knew that I would open myself up to be exposed and it would be scary, but it would be worth the trouble…rather than acting in something that somebody else wrote.”
While the story of an actress on the verge may seem to be inspired by personal experiences, Bertuccelli explained that she was really “inspired by a bit of everything." "On the one hand, the story evolved out of the many observations I made from the world of actresses, but on the other, it was influenced by this idea of fear: to be able to observe fear and how people respond to it. You see these stories where a child is trapped under a car and the mother is able to lift the car…sometimes fear makes you brave.”
It was this same idea of fear that motivated Bertuccelli, herself, to take on the load of writing, directing, and starring in her first film—even when some producers initially didn’t think she was up to the task. Luckily, she aligned herself with a team of producers who believed in her talent. She later connected with Tiscornia—previously an assistant director for Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero—who helped co-direct the film. Together, the two worked to establish the tone of the film, which veers quickly from comedy to horror to melodrama, all with aplomb. “It was only after two weeks on set filming that the whole team realized what the tone was…we let it come to us organically.”
Having worked with a number of prominent Argentine directors, ranging from Juan José Campanella to Daniel Burman, Bertuccelli believes onset osmosis inspired her own directing style. However, she cites two filmmakers in particular as her biggest directorial inspirations: the Spanish filmmaker Mar Col, whom she worked with on We All Want What’s Best for Her, and Martín Rejtman, who gave her two of her biggest breaks with Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves, and is thanked in the closing credits.
Bertuccelli stressed that, despite her past successes, she still has room to grow as an artist. “I learned a lot working on this film, important skills like perseverance, patience, and concentration,” she chuckled. “Above all, in terms of advice for first-time filmmakers, you need to trust in what you are feeling—even if it’s something you haven’t done or seen before. Trust your gut. For something that requires so much effort, make sure it’s very important to you.”
When asked if she has future plans to direct and write more films, Bertuccelli could only clasp her fingers together like an evil genius and let out a villainous “yes!” We can’t wait to see what she has planned next.