Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez on the Politics of ‘Emilia Perez’: ‘We Don’t Recognize the Country in Which We Live’

The stars of Cannes sensation “Emilia Perez” got personal about the politics of their genre-bending musical on Sunday.

Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez fielded questions at a press conference for the Jacques Audiard project about the film’s setting in Mexico — a country torn by cartel violence as it heads for a summer election. A Mexican journalist asked the actors if they could reconcile the beauty of the film with the real world corruption occurring in the nation.

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“I’ve been living in LA for 20 years. Mexican culture, that’s something that’s dear to my heart. I have lots of family there. There is injustice and corruption, which is true of all places in the world. But I’m grateful to Jacques because he used a lot of creative library and freedom [in this story],” said Saldaña.

Gomez said she related “so much to what Zoe said. I still have family there and, obviously, me growing up in Texas was another part of my life. In general it was wonderful.”

Ramirez was poetic in his reflection on the plight before Latin Americans: “I go there very often, and there is an idea of exile — but exile within yourself. Watching our film last night, the world you know sort of disappears and then comes back. This is widespread in America. We don’t recognize the country in which we live but we cant leave it,” he said. “What we need, we Latin Americans, is to celebrate and create as if hope is just over the horizon. It guides our destiny forward.”

Mexican actress Adriana Paz was most explicit and heartbreaking on the realities of life in her native country.

“I live in Mexico and every day I live in fear. You cant go out of your house at night alone. You have to teach people and prepare them, there is such a huge range of [issues],” she said.

At its premiere on Saturday night, “Emilia Pérez” earned the longest standing ovation of Cannes so far with nine minutes of applause. Gomez wiped away tears as the Palais clapped for a full nine minutes, accompanied by plenty of hooting, whistling and cheering.

In the film, from Palme d’Or winner Audiard, Saldaña stars as Rita, an “overqualified and undervalued” lawyer, whose firm is more inclined to help criminals than seek justice. She finds an unexpected way out when a feared drug cartel leader Manitas (Gascón) recruits her to aid him in surreptitiously completing a sex change operation to become the woman he’s always wanted to be. Gomez plays his unsuspecting wife.

“Emilia Pérez” is among the buzziest films and packages for sale at Cannes, alongside Ali Abbasi’s Donald Trump movie “The Apprentice” and the Pamela Anderson-starring “Last Showgirl.” In addition to competing for Audiard’s second Palme d’Or, the film is also eligible to win the Queer Palm, which recognizes titles dealing with LGBTQ themes and is award by a jury presided over by Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont.

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