As the only South American country to win not just one, but two Academy Awards, it’s no surprise that some of Latin America’s most talented film industry professionals hail from Argentina. Born in the bustling city of Cordoba, actress Yamila Saud is a shining symbol of Argentine contributions to cinema.
In her most recent role, Saud grabs audiences and pulls them down into a dark and unsettling place where human depravity has no limits. That film is “Hypersomnia”– a powerful 2017 thriller about human trafficking and the tragic toll it takes, both physically and psychologically, on the trapped women who are literally living in slavery.
Saud delivers a captivatingly meta performance as Milena, an actress who is playing a character named Laly in a theater production that takes place within the film’s storyline. Laly is a prisoner in a brothel, a victim of the human slave trade, and she lives in constant fear of the men who treat her worse than livestock. Milena, like Saud, is intensely serious about her craft. Determined to fully capture the essence of Laly, Milena begins falling deeper and deeper into character.
“[Milena’s] character [Laly] is a sex slave who falls in love with one of her captors. During rehearsals Milena begins to experience trances, in which she seems to live the life of her character,” Saud described. “What begins as an acting exercise ends up becoming a dark reality.”
Because of its layered narratives, the film’s impact is felt on several levels. Beyond the subjects of sex slavery and Stockholm syndrome, “Hypersomnia” also deftly tackles a social issue that has dominated the news of late — sexual harassment and assault by powerful men in the industry. As an actress, Saud’s character Milena endures advances and threats of retribution from the play’s director.
“[The story is also about] the abuse of power by men, where women are manipulated to do what is asked of them in exchange for getting work,” Saud said. “In this case, the director subjects [Milena] to a number of rare requests.”
It is no small task for an actress to believably capture the trauma of Laly, the worsening psychosis of Milena, and the effect it has on Milena to be exploited by powerful men. But Saud was able to expertly take on both characters, a testament to her versatility.
“My most challenging roles were Milena and Laly in ‘Hypersomnia,’” Saud recalled. “The character of Milena is a girl who has a dream, but to achieve it she has to submit to the director’s ‘requests.’ … It’s something that really happens every day, not only in the artistic fields but in all industries.”
Disturbing, enthralling and extremely relevant, “Hypersomnia” is a brilliant social critique presented as a haunting psychological thriller. “Hypersomnia” is available to stream for free for Netflix subscribers.
Saud’s upcoming film “Solo el Amor” is slated to begin shooting in 2018, and is about as different from “Hypersomnia” as a film can be. Lighthearted by comparison, “Solo el Amor” is the timeless story of two mismatched young people discovering an unlikely romance.
“I am very happy to be a part of this film,” Saud said. “I think every actress dreams of making a love movie, and I’m not the exception.”
At its core, “Solo el Amor” is a classic tale of the heart wanting what the heart wants. Saud plays Ana, a straight-laced and serious woman who begins falling in love with a young man named Bruno.
“Ana is a young lawyer who lives in a world that is as structured as it is unexciting. Bruno is a bohemian and an irresponsible singer-songwriter who dreams of reaching success with his rock band,” Saud explained. “Despite their differences they fall in love, leading them to understand who they are — and to go for what they really want at whatever cost.”
The heartwarming story of love conquering all, “Solo el Amor” will begin filming next year and will likely begin screening to audiences in late 2018 or the following year.
Yamila Saud’s versatility and empathy form the foundation for the career she has built. Whether playing an unstable stage actress, a victim of human trafficking, or a lawyer on a collision course with true love, Saud is capable of understanding her characters on a truly deep level. That intimate connection to her characters that Saud naturally possesses is a rare gift that no amount of training can teach.