• Golden Globe Awards

Clara Sola (Costa Rica)

In Clara Sola, Clara (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) lives in a rural area of Costa Rica with her elderly mother Fresie (Flor Maria Vargas Chaves). Clara’s niece Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza) has moved in with them after her mother passed away, resulting in three generations of women sharing the same roof. Clara, who is 40 years old, has a spinal condition and mental issues but is considered a miracle maker by the locals. It is believed that she was touched by the Virgin Mary in her youth. They believe that Clara has a special connection to God. 
“We were eager to set Clara Sola in the religious Latin America that we remember from our childhood years,” says the Costa Rican-Swedish director Nathalie Álavarez Mesén, who co-wrote the script with Maria Camila Arias. “We wanted to portray the warmth of a caring community intertwined with the unhealthy notions of ‘how to be a proper God-fearing woman’ that is passed on from generation to generation and that is oftentimes created by women themselves.”
Clara’s highly religious mother has boasted about her daughter’s supposedly otherworldly abilities and has claimed that she can heal visitors’ pain. At the same time, she has also repressed her emotionally and sought to keep her from having sexual pleasure.
“Fresia represents the burden that women carry in trying to do their best in spite of the patriarchal education that they have received,” says Nathalie Álavarez Mesén. “As you can imagine, it is not a winning recipe and the results, more often than not, are a continuing propagation of this harmful world order.”
In a way, Clara Sola points a finger at women themselves. Nathalie Álavarez Mesén was eager to push women to take a look at the way they perpetuate patriarchal traditions instead of breaking with them.
“Patterns are learned,” she points out. “We need to do more to end the harmful ones. The image of the Virgin Mary as a role model for women to aspire to is so problematic. It’s impossible to achieve and creates a sense of ourselves that comes from a place of shame. A shame about how our body looks, about what it needs and desires. We wanted to open a conversation about sexuality as something very natural from the perspective of a character who doesn’t have a need to be complacent or to have any shame in relation to her desires.”
Wendy Chinchilla Araya, seen here in her first film role, is a dancer. For Nathalie Álavarez Mesén, discovering her was love at first sight. “I was specifically looking for a dancer to portray a character who seemed very still and quiet – but that was only on the outside. Whoever played Clara needed to be able to portray someone with a soul larger than her body somehow – and seeing Wendy during a contemporary dance performance, and later in the audition, we knew it could only be her. “
Clara Sola is Nathalie Álavarez Mesén’s first feature film. It premiered at the Cannes film festival in The Director’s Fortnight section in 2021.