Marina Tamayo
Marina Tamayo was plucked from obscurity by director Benjamin Millipied (also known as Natalie Portman’s husband) to star in a new hit film….

Carmen is a one-of-a-kind cinematic vision starring Marina Tamayo, who has taught flamenco dance all over the Northern Beaches. It also stars Melissa Barrera (ScreamIn the Heights) and Paul Mescal (AftersunNormal People). Directed by Benjamin Millepied, Carmen is a gritty modern-day tale, with a majestic score by Nicholas Britell (MoonlightSuccession), and dream-like dance sequences that evoke magic realism.

The story follows a young and fiercely independent woman (Barrera) who is forced to flee her home in the Mexican desert following the brutal murder of her mother, portrayed by North Shore local Marina Tamayo, another strong and mysterious woman. Carmen survives a terrifying and dangerous illegal border crossing into the US, only to be confronted by a lawless volunteer border guard who cold-bloodedly murders two other immigrants in her group. When the border guard and his patrol partner, Aidan (Mescal) – a Marine with PTSD – become embroiled in a deadly standoff, Carmen and Aidan are forced to escape together. They make their way north toward Los Angeles in search of Carmen’s mother’s best friend, the mercurial Masilda (iconic Spanish actress Rossy de Palma) and owner of La Sombra nightclub – a sanctuary of music and dance. Carmen and Aidan find both solace and their unwavering love for each other in the safety of Masilda’s magical refuge, but time is running out as the police hunt closes in.

marina tamayo

Speaking on the film, Marina Tamayo says, “I play the role of Zilah, Carmen’s mother. Zilah is a fiercely independent and protective mother who would die to protect her daughter. Her dance is the dance of her life. I choreographed it as how I dance to survive, protecting my daughters. Zilah represents fiercely independent, resilient, strong women. Women who would rather die than lose their dignity. She embodies the untamed spirit, one that cannot be extinguished. Moreso, she is the power of dance, music and passion which lays in souls.

“I received an email from a casting agent inviting me to apply. Apparently, Benjamin found me from Los Angeles, on the internet dancing in one of my productions and asked them to search for me here. Interestingly enough, I found their email in my ‘junk folder’ as I was cleaning up my inboxes. I thought, what is this about? Luckily, I replied on gut instinct.”

“I was invited to the Sydney Dance Company studios to have a dance audition the following week and when we finished I was told I had the part.”

 “To me, Zilah is drenched with the spirit of women stories. She allowed me to be me. Flamenco is my cultural storytelling format, and I was finally able to share it with Australia without limitations. This was due to Benjamin’s artistic pioneering, as he gave me no boundaries, giving me full freedom to create. The film provided me with a lifetime opportunity, for which I am eternally grateful.

Marina Tamayo
Marina and director Benjamin Millepied on set filming Carmen

“I arrived on the Northern Beaches in 1999, hoping to find opportunities for my artistic Flamenco passion. There wasn’t much in Avalon, other than surfing and yoga. I gave my first Flamenco class in an abandoned dusty old scout hall in Avalon, with one student for $10. Later, I created a small Flamenco community called Flamenco Australia. After 25 years, I extended to Narrabeen, Brookvale, the Sydney CBD, Hobart, Spain, Auckland, Adelaide and Mosman, at the Mosman Dance Academy studios.

“There are so many beautiful moments cradling a plethora of messages in Carmen. The main thing I hope is people embrace this movie as an opportunity to be a wildly artistic audience, and be free to go beyond the margins of an ordinary day by engaging in this sensorial piece of art. The film is unique, and will not fit into a box, nor mainstream category. For me, that’s the bravery and genius of Benjamin and his team. I hope people dance!”

The film will screen at Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 10 and 13 before a national cinema release on July 13. See the trailer for the film here.
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