Author Sabina Berman Talks About the Making of "Gloria"
Who is Sabina Berman
Sabina Berman is a Mexican writer, playwright, novelist, essayist, journalist and screenwriter. She has been awarded with the National Prize for Drama in Mexico and the Juan Ruiz de Alarcon prize as well as with the National Journalism Award. She is the author of several novels including Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World and El dios de Darwin ("Darwin's God"). Berman has also written the script of "Gloria," a biopic about the controversial Mexican pop/rock icon, Gloria Trevi. Trevi is also the subject of her most recently published book, Gloria: Una historia sobre la fama y la infamia ("a story about fame and infamy").
On late December, 2014, I was able to get in touch with her via webcam and ask her several questions about the biopic, "Gloria." In this interview, Berman provided detailed and valuable responses that help us better understand her role in the making of the film as well as the difficulties she has had with Gloria Trevi.
What made you write the screenplay for this film? It took me a while to accept. First, I thought it was a story that everyone knew except for me. I was not sure about what had happened. Why had Gloria gone to jail? Why had her release from jail been so widely televised by Televisa? Why had she been interviewed by Lopez Doriga in the most watched newscast of the Mexican television? And, I began to ask other journalists and started getting the same answers: no one was sure about what had happened. That's when I thought it was worth entering the subject. It's one of those stories that people believe they know, but when they delve into it, they realize it is full of uncertainties; and those uncertainties are extremely interesting because they have to do with justice.
In your book, you talk about the sensationalism that constantly surrounded the sex scandal in which Trevi was involved. How did you manage to approach this story differently? Well, I approached it from an investigative journalism perspective. I compared stories and checked them for contradictions and what emerged was a story that was very close to the truth.
What role did TV Azteca play in all of this? This is well known. What happened was that Aline Hernandez, who had been Sergio Andrade's wife, worked for TV Azteca and approached Paty Chapoy and told her she wanted to write her biography. Then, she started narrating the life within the harem and with Sergio Andrade. Paty Chapoy was shocked and offered to write the book's prologue. Then, as it is narrated in my book and as it is told in her book, she pursued the case from a journalistic approach: she sent reporters to follow Gloria in Mexico, then to Spain, then to South America. She went after her and, at the same time, she was looking for any of Andrade's victims who were willing to testify in order to turn, what was just a media scandal, into a criminal case of abuse of underage girls. Paty Chapoy is very proud of that.
Some former members of the harem like Mary Boquitas and Aline Hernandez have shown some discomfort, as they were not contacted before the script had been written. What do you have to say about this? What I have to say is that now everyone involved is going to come out and express their views and that's fine. I think the research was done in a serious way against serious international police documents, and what is interesting is that neither the book nor the script say improbable things. Sure, I could have talked to Mary Boquitas, but there is nothing in the script about Mary Boquitas that is not true. Mary would have told me a story I did not know, but the script is about Gloria Trevi. Hence, there is a dispute about who is at the center of events, that was always the case in that family that made up the harem. For me, there is no lack of clarity, that character is Gloria Trevi.
How did your impression of the case change after doing the research? When I first started looking at it, I did not know anything more than rumors or what I had read. It changed because I went into it with an unprejudiced mind to investigate the truth. In fact, Gloria asked the same of me, she said, "Please come without prejudices and try to find the truth." After investigating it, I realized that this story was more interesting than I had initially thought. Besides, this is the story of someone who can sing, who has this gift and whose life takes her from one disaster to another and what always saves her is this gift to sing. It can be seen as a fable about the healing power of art. It is not an investigation against Gloria Trevi nor against Mary Boquitas. It is not against anyone. That is the focus that the press has given it, but when people see the movie, they will leave very happy. They will not come out hating anyone.
What role does Gloria Trevi's music play in the film? Gloria herself gave me the key, she said, "My diary are my songs. At that time, instead of keeping a diary, I wrote everything that I lived through, everything that happened to me in the songs." And, I asked, "And this song has to do with this?" And she said, "Yes, it has to do with this. I wrote it about Sergio. " Then, I asked, "What about this song? When did you write it?" And, she told me the story behind it. That's how the songs are inserted: according to Gloria's life during those years.
How were you able to immerse yourself in the difficult task of conducting this research while staying busy with other projects? Well, I dedicated it all the time that was necessary. It is a project that took long to materialize. I conducted the research about 7 years ago, and then there was a significant pause for years, until I wrote the last version of the script which was different from the first one because it was more concise, more brief, and more cinematic. But, the events were already narrated from the beginning in the script that Gloria Trevi knows very well.
Gloria asked you to tell her story, but she has now told the press that she does not believe that you are apt to tell her story. Where do you think this change in Gloria Trevi's attitude comes from? That Gloria was not my only source. Apparently, she assumed that what she told me was going to be the sole basis for the movie, and that I was not going to do any research. Well, I think it was an assumption that was groundless and unfounded, and when she saw that the script was not exactly what she had told me (it had been enriched and corrected because Gloria had lied to me about some things), she tried to prevent the film from coming out and demanded that another script be done. And so it would have been, but the producer decided that it would not. I sympathize with Gloria, but I sympathize more with the truth. I believe in the relentless power of truth; when you make up things, that invented truth does not last. When one makes the effort and carries out a methodology and reaches a truth, it has an incalculable power. I think this movie is not going to cause any discord. Neither Aline nor Mary will have nothing to complain about; they will recognize the truth. Perhaps, they will wish that their side of the story was more emphasized, that their reasons were explained more in depth, but it is a movie. Had it been a series of 13 episodes, it might have contained all that, but I had to make a choice and not lose the story's focus and the story was about Gloria.
What was the hardest part about this project? What did you enjoy the most? What is your take away from it? The heart of the story is the music. The temptation to go down the criminal side of the story was there all the time, and it is very attractive for a narrator. But, to address criminal scenes and to go through them without any judgment and not lose the main focus of the story which was the music, was the hardest and the most enjoyable thing. What it taught me? For the first time in my life I was sued not once but twice, so it taught me to prepare for a trial.
What are you currently working on? I'm in Buenos Aires. We are working on the premiere of a play called Testosterona. I just came from Madrid where Testosterona has been playing for three months. It will start playing in Mexico in February. Now, my focus is on Testosterona.