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Toronto: ‘El Sabor de La Navidad’ Producer Salma Hayek Pinault Talks Transgender Inclusion, Actors Strike

Producer Salma Hayek Pinault says her heartfelt family dramedy El Sabor de la Navidad as it tackles the issue of transgender acceptance in Mexican families reflects a changing and more progressive country and culture.

“Misunderstandings in families have to do with generational differences,” the Mexican-American star-turned-producer told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of a world premiere for director Alejandro Lozano’s Christmas family movie at the Toronto Film Festival on Wednesday evening. Hayek Pinault also marked her support for the SAG-AFTRA strikes by proudly wearing a T-shirt adorned with the actor union’s protest logo while at TIFF.

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“It’s not only Spanish (language), but a Mexican film. And so we’re very grateful that we were able to bring it to Toronto and that the union was supportive of it, otherwise I would not have come, without permission,” she said as her film debuted at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

El Sabor del la Navidad offers three intersecting stories set around Mexico City’s Christmas celebrations, which come together in the film’s emotional finale. In one storyline, Penelope, an estranged transgender daughter, looks to reconcile with her family. And her mother played by Mónica Dionne has to accept her new gender while her sisters take it all in stride.

Hayek Pinault says she’s part of an older generation keeping pace with younger and more progressive Mexicans in understanding transgender people. “The way people understood things then, it’s not the same as now. We’re trying to catch up,” she insisted.

The film’s screenwriter Jose Tamez, who is also a longtime producer partner for Hayek Pinault as part of their Ventanarosa Productions banner, said Mexico has come round, if uneasily in parts, to embracing transgender people. “I’m not saying that trans people are not experiencing sometimes discrimination, but at the same time there’s a level of acceptance that we haven’t seen before,” Tamez argued.

As a measure of progress, Hayek Pinault pointed to the country’s Supreme Court recently broadening abortion rights in the country just as Mexico is set to elect its first female president next year as two women will compete for the leadership post.

“Things are getting legalized when they’re getting unlegalized in the United States,” she said of abortion bans spreading in U.S. states as Mexico moves to decriminalization. The other two storylines in El Sabor de la Navidad similarly have characters trying to navigate the emotionally fraught season of Christmas.

In one, two friends test their friendship by working as competing Santa Clauses in Alameda Central Park, and the third storyline has a lonely chef with trust issues employ a new kitchen assistant to cook family Christmas dinners for clients, only to have long-dormant romantic feelings rekindled inside of her.

El Sabor de la Navidad is the second film in a first look deal for Spanish-language movies that Ventanarosa Productions has with TelevisaUnivision and its VIX streaming platform, with the first film being the romantic comedy Quiero Tu Vida.

“This is our second film with VIX. The first one was a number one hit and it’s only been one year. We’re doing really well,” Hayek Pinault said. El Sabor de la Navidad stars Mariana Treviño, Andrés Almeida, Armando Hernández, Juan Carlos Medellín, Mónica Dionne and Marco Treviño.

The film’s producer credits are shared by Erica Sánchez from Lemon Studios.  

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