Cannes, France, May 19, 2024 — The stars of the Cannes sensation Emilia Perez shared personal reflections on the political themes of their genre-bending musical at a press conference on Sunday. 

Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña, and Édgar Ramírez addressed questions about the film’s setting in Mexico, a country currently plagued by cartel violence and political corruption as it approaches a pivotal summer election.

Responding to a Mexican journalist’s question about reconciling the film’s beauty with the harsh realities of modern Mexico, Zoe Saldaña, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past two decades, expressed a deep connection to Mexican culture.

“Mexican culture is dear to my heart. I have lots of family there. There is injustice and corruption, which is true of all places in the world. But I’m grateful to Jacques because he used a lot of creative liberty and freedom in this story,” Saldaña stated.

Selena Gomez echoed Saldaña’s sentiments, reflecting on her own upbringing and family ties. “I still have family there and, obviously, me growing up in Texas was another part of my life. In general, it was wonderful,” Gomez said, underscoring the personal significance the film holds for her.

Édgar Ramírez offered a poetic perspective on the broader struggles faced by Latin Americans. “I go there very often, and there is an idea of exile — but exile within yourself. Watching our film last night, the world you know sort of disappears and then comes back. This is widespread in America. 

We don’t recognize the country in which we live but we can’t leave it,” he reflected. “What we need, we Latin Americans, is to celebrate and create as if hope is just over the horizon. It guides our destiny forward.”

Emilia Pérez premiered on Saturday night to resounding acclaim, earning the longest standing ovation of Cannes so far, with nine minutes of applause. Selena Gomez was visibly moved, wiping away tears as the audience clapped, hooted, whistled, and cheered.

The film, directed by Palme d’Or winner Jacques Audiard, features Saldaña as Rita, an “overqualified and undervalued” lawyer working for a firm more inclined to assist criminals than seek justice. 

Rita finds an unexpected way out when she is recruited by Manitas, a feared drug cartel leader played by newcomer Gascón, to help him complete a secret sex change operation. Selena Gomez stars as his unsuspecting wife.

This film’s exploration of personal identity and political struggle has struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, making it a standout at this year’s festival. 

The themes of the film resonate deeply, mirroring the current socio-political climate in Mexico and broader Latin America, where issues of corruption, violence, and hope for a better future are ever-present.