By Claudia Loh, Class of 2016 Saint Peter’s University
“Cassanova was a Woman” is a romantic comedy about a woman struggling with her sexuality as well as defying social stereotypes.
The main character is Cassanova Canto. She is a tall, blonde, blue-eyed Cuban-American woman who doesn’t quite fit the Cuban woman archetype. She falls out of love with her husband, and falls in love with a woman. Cassanova struggles with the idea of being bi-sexual and receives unsolicited advice from a naked man only she can see.
Jezabel Montero plays the character of Cassanova Canto. Montero has been an actor for over 20 years and has worked in all mediums. Yet, in recent years she has assumed the roles of writer, director, and producer. Montero is not only the films lead and creator but she is also the producer of the film with her company, Fuacata Films.
Montero established Fuacata Films in 2013. This is not her first film nor is it her first success in film. In 2008 her first film, “Blondes Are Latin Too”, that she produced, wrote, and directed, was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the Bronx Independent Short Documentary.
After her first film, other successful films followed. In 2010 Montero received the Mexico International Film Festival’s Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay for “Cassanova was a Woman”.
Later, in 2011 “Cassanova was a Woman” was adapted into a play, which later became an Official Selection at the 2011 NYC International Fringe Festival.
“I wanted to try the jokes out and 3 out of the 4 shows sold out”, Montero said.
With such great success on the stage, Montero decided her play was ready to be produced into a movie. After starting a Kickstarter campaign she gathered enough funds and investors to create her movie.
The film is loosely based on Montero’s personal relationship with her partner Margo Singaliese, who plays Cassanova Canto’s love interest in the film.
Margo Singaliese has been an actor for most of her life. She has worked on popular TV shows such as “The Sopranos” and “Law and Order: SVU”.
But unlike in the movie, Montero and Singaliese’s relationship transitioned much more smoothly than the movie.
“We were both working on the same production and when we met we just clicked! Everything went smoothly, it makes for a great life but not a great movie. Jezabel was able to take our story and create this great screenplay from it. She added the naked man to create some conflict. She is just so creative,” explains Singaliese.
The role of the naked “Fantasy Man” is to chime in and give advise to Cassanova during awkward situations. Actor Paolo Andino, who is known for his role on the hit TV show, Modern Family, will be playing the “Fantasy Man”.
Although this story is semi-autobiographical it has a much bigger message of defying social stereotypes.
“Being a blonde, blue-eyed Cuban I was always misjudged and never really fit in. And bisexuals are not inclusive in the LGBT, I didn’t fit there either,” explained Montero.
Montero explains that she wants to send messages through her work. She wants her work to make people think and she believes comedy is the best way to convey a message.
The film is directed by Kevin Arbouet. Arbouet is known for working on Generation Iron, a film that has become one of the highest grossing documentaries of the year.
“It is so hard to find a director that can see your theme and your vision, but when I met Kevin we were just simpatico. It’s hard to have a stranger see what you want him to see. He got it!” Montero said.
“Cassanova was a Woman” will be submitted to all the major film festivals. Production of the film is to be completed by November 2014.
“Art is provocative. If it doesn’t rustle a few feathers than I’m not doing my job,” Montero said.