One of the most anticipated film premieres during this year’s SXSW Conferences and Festivals was Ana Asensio’s Most Beautiful Island. Asensio not only directed the film, but wrote and starred in it as well. Although she has had plenty of experience in front of the camera as an actress, Most Beautiful Island marks Asensio’s directorial debut.
The film was produced by Glass Eye Pix, which is operated by one of my favorite genre actors and producers, Larry Fessenden. Glass Eye Pix has produced some amazing content (see our review for Darling), so I expected this film to be a personal favorite from SXSW. I wasn’t disappointed. Most Beautiful Island even went on to be named the winner of the Narrative Feature Competition in the 2017 SXSW Film Festival Awards.
The film follows undocumented immigrants Luciana (Asensio) and Olga (Natasha Romanova), who are trying to make a life in New York City. They struggle with basic necessities, such as finding healthcare, and take any odd job for funds. This desperation leads the women to be exploited and subjected to a cruel game in exchange for payment.
Most Beautiful Island was based on factual events that Asensio faced when she came to America. In her recent interview with me, she discusses how vulnerable undocumented people are, and how quickly things can go from bad to worse. This is an incredibly relevant story to tell at the moment, considering what a hot button the topic is. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you fall on, Most Beautiful Island is a reminder that a lack of empathy can lead to mistreatment and entitlement over those who we deem as unworthy.
The film is beautiful shot, ranging from the bustling and loud New York City streets to the quiet underground black tie parties. The acting across the board was stellar, with Asensio and Romanova giving powerful performances. Asensio made the right decision to put herself into the story as the lead actress. The emotion she conveys is all too real and packs a serious punch in the end.
Ana Asensio has proven that she can move seamlessly between actress and filmmaker. With such an incredibly successful debut, I have no doubt that Most Beautiful Island is only the beginning for this side of her career. I can’t wait to see what’s next.