Written by: Paz Rodriguez
SANTIAGO – Chilean movie director and producer, Nicolás López, finds himself in the midst a sexual abuse and harassment scandal. Several actresses, some of them starring in his recent movies, have spoken out against López.
More than a dozen women accuse director and producer Nicolas López of sexual misconduct and abuse. Some of the accusers acted in his most famous works, while others were to act in his future movie. Eight women publicly spoke out in Sabado, a weekly supplement of Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. Among the women are Josefina Montane, Lucy Cominetti, Andrea Velasco, and María Jesús Vidaurre. Alleged deeds include unwanted kissing, requests to touch him, and masturbating in front of one of them. Three of the accusers are well-known actresses in Chile, and two of them starred in his hit Que Pena Tu Vida trilogy which premiered in 2010. The movies use comedy to analyse relationships and the role of social media nowadays in Santiago.
In 2016, Sin Filtro came out, followed by No Estoy Loca early 2018. Both these movies tell the story of women who spoke out against male and social repression. They portray a main character, played by Paz Vascuñan, who somehow ends up in a place where she is not heard, respected, or understood. Although these two movies tell independent stories, they are both about a woman taking a stand against social norms which play a big part in Chilean culture.
Nicolás López, born March 16, 1983, in Santiago, has been a fixture in Latin American cinema. He has represented Chile at many international movie festivals, writing and producing movies in Chile, Mexico and Spain. At age 12, López wrote a column for El Mercurio named Memoirs of a Penguin (penguin is a reference to students at the time because of their uniforms) about the realities of school life in Chile. At 15, he started participating in movie festivals, and in 1998 he founded Sobras.com which led to the only indy movie festival in Santiago. Sobras.com later became movie production agency Sobras, which he used for all his hit movies.
Lucy Cominetti said on her Instagram that levelling these accusations has been “one of the hardest decisions I have taken in this past time.” Nonetheless, she is certain that “it was what I had to do,” adding “When I found out that I wasn’t the only one, I felt that I could not keep on being silent. My silence would only contribute to this to continue to happen.” She told Sabado about her encounters with López, describing a time when López was interested in her sexually, but she made clear that she wasn’t and he didn’t take it too well. She said, he responded “I will not be in charge of huevonas [roughly, stupid bitches] with Asperger” in reference to her. The situation escalated at the 2009 Valdivia Movie Festival, where “he came back again with his advances, with insistence. We were at a party and he would try to kiss me. Not just that: he would corner me and I would say no, and so on. He would say, ‘Now we are like this, but you and I we will have sex’ and I would repeatedly say no but he would insist.”
Another women, Daniela Ginestar, accused López of projecting on to a giant screen for her to watch, a video showing “him having sex with a famous Chilean television personality.” She continued by saying “I wanted to escape, but he told me that if these things shocked me I should find another line of work.” María Vidaurre, part of the trilogy that lifted López to fame, talks about a time when López called her in for a late night casting meeting at his home, and told her she needed to stop wearing bras while he pushed her against a wall, forcibly kissed her and pressed his erection against her.
Friends and family reacted shocked. In particular, Francisco Ortega, the author of “Chilean Gods,” explained that he still cares about López, even though he feels terrible about “letting jokes pass as jokes.” He spoke to one of the victims to see how they were, and to say sorry, as well as directly with López to discuss the subject. “All this grosses me out. I will not deny a year-long friendship, but I also will not participate in keeping silent.” These words seemed weak, as an old column emerged which he shared with López that spoke about women in a sexist fashion. The post Chicas Sobras appeared on Sobras.com and included sexual and graphic comments about women like Leonor Varela, Penelope Cruz, Mena Suvari, among others. Since then, Ortega has apologized several times, saying he regrets ever starting the blog.
On the other hand, actor Ramón Llao, who has been part of six of López’s productions, dismissed the allegations via Instagram. He explains that he doesn’t believe in public discrimination of an individual and that the allegations should be cleared in total by regular conduct so that the “victims will in some way feel they have been served justice.” Alison Mandel also spoke out about what Nicolás López is going through via Instagram. She spoke about having a long friendship with the director, and added to being “strongly shocked by everything that is happening.” Although she doesn’t doubt what the women are saying about him, she ensured she “never saw Nicolás harassing women that way.”
Although being sorry about allegations, López played them down, saying “there were many jokes, things one says.” In a Youtube video, López states that “I am not a harasser, I am not an abuser, I repeat: I could have been a flirt, an asshole, but that I am not.” He has since hired Paula Vial as lawyer who accuses the magazine of having published misleading and out-of-context statements. In response, she also received criticism from the media. “I am in shock still, to see all these declarations, many from part of close friends or people of confidence, where there were caring relationships,” she said. Days after the Sabado story, Paz Vazcuñan’s husband, associate and close friend of López, Miguel Asencio, called one of the affected to offer her a job in a Netflix co-production to avoid having her coming out, too, with a public announcement.
In his Youtube video López also talks about leaving his production agency Sobras. “Sobras is one of my dearest life projects, I started it when I was twelve years old and of course leaving is not easy for me. I don’t want that what I have done in my private life affecting my collaborators, friends, technical team, and actors, and I want them to know that all that is being said about me, the only one responsible here is me.”
Talks about a future project with help of Netflix are in the air since before the women spoke out. Netflix has since announced that the relationship with López is “under review.” Juan Pablo Hermosilla, legally representing some of the women, cleared up information about the relationship, saying “This is a case that will reverberate because we have a director who works in the US and who produces for the North American market, so we are not only going to apply Chilean legal standards, but also North America’s. This is why Netflix and any other company that has a presence in the US are in a complicated position: they cannot sponsor nor support behavior of abuse or mistreatment of artists.”
Recent comments about López’s Youtube video say it was “weak” and “manipulative” trying to victimize himself and making the women seem like they were exaggerating. Friends and family are divided over what to believe and what to defend, and meanwhile López is looking for ways to prove his side to the public. In no way has López tried to deny any of the attacks he is said to have commited, and his downplaying of such atrocious acts indicates that he is not necessarily sorry about any of it. It’s clear that to him, his actions were considered part of the job and to an extent even normal, which makes this scandal one of the biggest in Latin America.