Saturday, June 15

Nadieme Villar’s film ‘Pobre Diabla’ details life after living with domestic violence

Nadieme Villar is redefining the past to find strength in the future in her film “Pobre Diabla.”

The sixth-year film student said her upcoming thesis film tells the story of Valeria, a young woman whose relationship has been affected by her upbringing in an abusive home with exposure to domestic violence. To portray the idea that a parent’s actions can affect their child’s relationship with future partners, Villar said the film concentrates on romance and Valeria’s journey toward independence.

“I hope that audiences can feel like it’s okay to break down and to have a moment to recollect yourself after these traumatic moments,” Villar said. “I just wanted to show the very raw emotions, which is that we’re human, we break down and that’s okay.”

Villar said the autobiographical elements woven into the film made it especially difficult to write the screenplay. The film strives to present domestic abuse with honesty and transparency, she added. Other scenes such as when Valeria sees her boyfriend with another girl or when Valeria celebrates her quinceañera, fill “Pobre Diabla” with personal moments and family dynamics that can resonate with a Latino audience, Villar said.

Screenwriting for “Pobre Diabla” began last August before filming commenced in February of this year, Villar said. For the film’s music, local Latina artist Katana wrote an original song called “Luna” exclusively for the project, which Villar said incorporates a blend of English and Spanish lyrics. This influence carried over to the film’s title, which is derived from the song “Pobre Diabla” by reggaeton artist Don Omar, a track Villar said she heard often when her father was a disc jockey.

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The “Pobre Diabla” project featured a predominantly Latino crew, Villar said, with a local seamstress providing an authentic quinceañera dress for the shooting of the film. Villar added that her co-producer secured his grandmother’s house in Norwalk as the primary filming location. There was a strong emphasis on this location in the film, so the home perfectly represented the tenacity of the Latino community, she added.

Throughout the story, the film explores the contrasting dynamics between Valeria and her parents, Villar said. While Valeria’s father lacks control in his life and fails as an authoritative figure in his own home, Valeria’s mother is protective and coddles her daughter, Villar added. Even if she avoids conflict herself, Villar said she wants audiences to understand that confrontation is sometimes necessary and acceptable.

“What I want to show is that sometimes you need to have conflict, you need to confront it and you need to be standing up for yourself,” Villar said. “Sometimes that’s needed in order for you to grow and to move on.”

Olive Ball, the actress who played the lead role of Valeria in “Pobre Diabla,” said the film depicts a slice of Valeria’s life by demonstrating how everyone copes with trauma differently. Valeria is overwhelmed on her 18th birthday as she prepares to leave for college, Ball said, and she starts to leave her childhood behind as she better understands her place in the world relative to the men in her life.

“It’s not a happy arc necessarily, it’s a sobering arc,” Ball said. “It’s a dose of reality, and I think it’s seeing your life for what it is.”

Ball said Villar’s directing style was straightforward and gentle, and that Villar pulled her aside early on in the production to have a one-on-one conversation to determine how the two could best collaborate. She said Villar’s inviting demeanor commands respect, and throughout the production the chatter of the cast and crew would fall silent when Villar had something to say.

Dennis Lee, a cinematographer, said he joined the project after reading the screenplay and resonating with the material, and then collaborated with Villar to translate the feelings of the script to the screen by using different colors to represent various emotions. Red symbolized a multilayered form of anger that grew in intensity alongside the characters’ own changes, Lee said. By comparison, the use of yellow was influenced by the opening scene of David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” and remained fairly consistent throughout the film to portray the warmth of a domestic environment, Lee added.

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Villar said her past roles as an assistant director and associate producer on various other projects were a completely different experience from being the director herself. Creating “Pobre Diabla” has inspired her to direct again in the future, she said, with hopes of creating future projects on pressing social issues while incorporating the Caribbean and Latino communities.

“There is something about creating an image and a picture and putting it together that it’s like painting and making a poem,” Villar said. “There’s something about building a story that I’ll never let go.”

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