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GLORIA

About The Production
Gloria Trevi, like many young hopefuls in Mexico, began her show-business career by winning a spot in one of the fiercely competitive musical training academies that develop talent on behalf of the national television networks. At just 14, she became a member of Sergio Andrade's all-girl group, Boquitas Pintadas, and became the star maker's standout protegee, eventually writing and performing on a record-breaking solo album he produced. Trevi would become Andrade's most magnificent creation, as well as his lover and the mother of his child before almost being destroyed by his tumultuous personal life.

Filmmaker Christian Keller came across Trevi's story in a 2005 New York Times article detailing the troubled star's release from prison in Brazil and eventual exoneration on sex trafficking charges. The aspiring director had never heard of the controversial superstar, but after reading the details of her spectacular rise and fall, he knew it had all the elements of a great feature film.

"I was young and very naive," says Keller, a Swiss national who was 19 at the time. "It was such an amazing story that I thought it would take me a year to get the movie made-maybe two. Between getting the rights to the story and songs, and putting together a group of like-minded filmmakers, it has taken nearly ten years."

Keller had no filmmaking experience or training at the time, only a burning desire to direct and he was sure he had found the key to opening the industry's tightly locked doors. With no contacts or credentials to speak of, he began by cold calling anyone he thought could help him, starting with Gloria Trevi. "Gloria seemed to like the way I saw what had happened to her," Keller says. "I never wanted to make a conventional biopic. I envisioned a love story that ends up in a very dark place. The film only covers the part of her life she spent with Sergio, from the day they meet until the last time they see each other. That's the core of the film."

Improbable as it seems, Keller secured the rights to Trevi's life story and was able to raise a small amount of seed money for his dream project. His vision and tenacity drove him on to assemble a multi-national production team, mostly by cold-calling people including Barrie M. Osborne, whose producing credits include such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Great Gatsby, and Matthias Ehrenberg, founder of Rio Negro Productions and one of Mexico's leading film producers.

"I hoped that an international team would tell her story without any preconceived notions based on her notoriety in Mexico," the director says. "The story is quite sensational, but we wanted to emphasize the human side of it. I am Swiss, our editor is French and our composer is Scottish. Barrie is from New Zealand and Matthias from Mexico. We have a Mexican writer and music producer. That has helped us keep a fine balance."

Impressed by the ambition and drive he saw in Keller, Ehrenberg agreed to sign on as a producer, but admits it was difficult putting the financing together with an untried director and a controversial story. "A 19-year-old Swiss guy with no connection to Mexico or pop music called me out of the blue with this crazy idea to make a feature film about one of our national icons," he says. "I said 'Christian who?' But after talking to him, I thought it was a great idea. It's a terrific story, he had a good, solid script and I was just so impressed by him."

Ehrenberg says there was considerable resistance to the idea of the film in the beginning. "A lot of people didn't think the movie could be made. A lot of people didn't want to see it made, because it was too controversial. And a lot of people put a great deal of effort into making this happen, which is very gratifying."

The screenplay was written by Sabina Berman, one of Mexico's most acclaimed writers. She too was initially skeptical when the young and untested Keller approached her. "About seven years ago, I got call from Christian," she recalls. "He said he wanted to make a film about Gloria Trevi. I laughed, gave him my best wishes and hung up. Then he came to see me and told me he had the rights to her life story, but no money to make it happen. I declined again."

But as Berman learned more about Trevi's life, she became intrigued. "I read one of the books that started the scandal as well as a collection of stories by Sergio Andrade. Gloria was becoming very interesting to me. Even though I had initially said no to Christian, the story started taking shape in my head. I was in."

Berman had two non-negotiable conditions for writing the screenplay. "Gloria had to be willing to tell me her story herself," she says. "And she would have no right to veto or correct the story. She agreed to both."

Berman and Keller sat down with Trevi and Andrade separately to hear their stories first hand. "We taped about 30 hours of audio interviews just with Gloria and Sergio," says Keller. "I actually lived with Gloria for more than a week. We spent a lot of time with Sergio, who explained how they wrote music. Each of them talked at length about the way they worked together. They have a truly symbiotic relationship. Now that they are apart, they are not the same. They are still brilliant, but together they were greater than the sum of their parts." 

The screenwriter met with Trevi both at home and at several stops on her concert tour. "I wanted to understand both the woman and the diva," Berman says. "And I needed to know why she would agree to relive this whole ordeal. She told me quite clearly that she wants to be vindicated. There are many versions of her story out there and she says that they are made up of half-truths and lies. Not only do people not know whether she is guilty or innocent, they don't even know what it is she is guilty or innocent of."

The film begins in Mexico City when the then 14-year-old hopeful first meets the 27-year-old impresario. It covers the next two decades of their lives, ending with the last time they see each other in prison in Rio de Janeiro.

"It was challenging to fit 20 years of this incredible woman's life into under two hours," Keller says. "That was part of the decision to focus so tightly on the relationship between Gloria and Sergio. Even then, figuring out what really happened was difficult. Understandably, Gloria and Sergio gave different versions of some events, so we had to turn to other sources for information."

Berman, who is also a leading journalist, built her story by beginning with in-depth background research and crosschecking the sources and documents she uncovered. A pair of tell-all books written by women formerly managed by Andrade provided even more information. All of the facts were meticulously verified.

"I wanted to be as truthful and impartial as possible," she says. "Interviewing Gloria and Sergio was the beginning, but we made sure to speak with other eyewitnesses. They led very public lives, so things began to come together pretty quickly."

Berman agrees that the deeply tangled love affair between Trevi and Andrade is the heart of their movie. "Gloria and Sergio have a strange connection," she says. "It includes the love they both have for music, as well as for each other. To write these characters, I had to detach myself from questions of morality. You can't judge."

Producer Ehrenberg says the script portrays the story and its principals without preconceived notions of guilt or innocence, and without taking sides. "We have focused primarily on Gloria, her rise to fame and some situations in her life that spin out of control," he notes. "We're not laying blame, but the amount of misinformation that is out there is incredible and we are trying to correct some of that. It is a story of two people who have everything and end up with nothing. They wind up disgraced and in jail. At the end, Gloria manages to fight her way out of the hell she got herself into, which I think is inspiring."

Keller refuses to look at Gloria's life as a tragic tale of seduction and sexual abuse. His aim has always been to tell a universally relatable story about an ambitious young woman who is in love and yearning to feel loved. "That led her to a very dark place," he says. "She and Sergio certainly did some crazy things, but they also created magic together. And she has emerged from a potentially crushing experience as a strong, triumphant woman who has gone on to even more success."

The end result, Ehrenberg says, is a powerful movie that combines music and drama to bring the turbulent life story of "the Supreme Diva of Mexican Pop," to the screen. "It's a great biopic, but that's not all it is," the producer says. "I think it will be an important movie for the Hispanic community all over the world. Gloria is part of our collective imagination. She is still a strong presence in this world. Since the events of the film, she has reinvented herself and become a huge star all over again. There aren't that many people who are interesting enough to make a movie like this about, but Gloria surely is one."

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