Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva and Michael Cera in Crystal Fairy.
If Sundance has a favorite son, it might be Chilean direction Sebastián Silva. Silva won the festival’s jury prize in 2009 for The Maid; in 2011, he was back with Old Cats. This year he has two films premiering — Magic, Magic and Crystal Fairy — both staring Michael Cera.
Silva kicked off his Sundance threepeat with the premiere of Crystal Fairy, the story of two obnoxious and painfully self-unaware Americans living in Chile. They meet at a party, and bond over a common desire to find, cook and ingest a tea made from the San Pedro cactus, treasured for its hallucinogenic properties.
The film is as polished and detailed as one might expect from a Sundance staple like Silva, and both Cera and Hoffman give delightful performances as Jamie and Crystal Fairy — that guy who just read The Doors of Perception and that chick who will describe your aura to you, respectively. Cera in particular will stun with a performance that pushes the edges of creepy self-absorption, giving audiences no corner from which to relate to the maniac, narcissistic character.
The film’s other principle characters, Jamie’s friend and his two brothers, are played by Silva’s real life brothers: Agustín (who also appeared in The Maid), José Miguel and Juan Andrés Silva.
Silva’s brothers are not the only part of his real life inserted into the Crystal Fairy. Silva told the audience after last night’s screening, “This film is dedicated to the real Crystal Fairy, who I could never find after I met her ten years ago and had mescaline with her.”
That trip stuck in Silva’s mind. “I had it on my desktop for a while — just an empty folder that was called ‘Crystal Fairy.’ I think just a couple of years after it happened, I was just like, this story is too good.”
He finally got the opportunity to make it when production on his other film premiering at Sundance this year, Magic, Magic, was delayed. Michael Cera was in Chile already for Magic, Magic; Gaby Hoffmann (who had recently collaborated with Silva on another project) flew down for the Fairy shoot.
They shot whole thing in just 12 days. There was no script — just the indelible memory Silva had of that trip he took into the desert to trip on Mescaline a decade ago, and the hippie chick who tagged along.
Silva just explained his memory to Cera and Hoffman, and turned them loose. “They told me they didn’t know how to improvise, and I was panicking because I didn’t have a script,” Silva says. “But I knew the feeling of every moment.”
Silva adds he’s hopeful he’ll finally find the real Crystal Fairy now that the film is out.
“I know she’s gonna reach out,” Silva says. “I look for her and the first thing that comes up are actual crystal fairies in Google image — fairies that are made out of crystal. I don’t know how to find her. I hope she finds out.”