L.A. Film Festival: 'Crystal Fairy' goes on a drug-fueled journey

L.A. Film Festival: 'Crystal Fairy' goes on a drug-fueled journey
Gaby Hoffmann and Michael Cera and the hallucinogenic cactus in "Crystal Fairy." (IFC Films)

"It's a great drug, you should try it," said Sebastian Silva, director of the film "Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus," Friday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

He wasn't kidding --in the film, his characters steal a cactus, chop it into bits, stew it, drink its milky liquid, and begin a journey, with ensuing hilarity. Drug-fueled stories have been done before in film, but this one distinguishes itself with its quirky nature.


The film had its premiere earlier this year at Sundance, where director Sebastian Silva won the Director's Award in World Cinema.

Set in Chile, the film follows self-involved twentysomething Jamie (Cera), whose sole objective is finding and drinking the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus. At a party he meets a young woman named Crystal Fairy and accidentally invites her to join their adventure. He thinks she would never say yes, but, of course, she does.

Crystal is eccentric and misunderstood, with a personality just as dramatic and bold as Jamie's -- bringing an awkward tension about how much they will clash. Finally they imbibe the drink and the journey begins, with plenty of drug-induced commentary ("the mountains have faces") and nudity.

Following Friday’s screening there was a Q&A with Silva, and the film’s stars Gaby Hoffmann and Michael Cera.

Silva said the movie was based on an experience he had about 12 years ago – he met a woman by the name of Crystal Fairy, and invited her to take hallucinogens with him and his best friend in the desert. "The story was there and sitting on the desktop of my computer for years," Silva said.

"Crystal Fairy" was filmed in two weeks, with no re-shoots. Instead, Silva used long takes and shot chronologically.

"If you don't ever turn the camera off, then people are always ready… There's a constant tension and people don't feel like they can interrupt that," Silva said.

The movie also has no scripted dialogue. "The story was there, obviously, but all the dialogue was improvised," Hoffmann says. Cera noted that he had never worked that way before.

Material came from "whatever we talked about at the previous night's dinner," Hoffmann joked.

Cera recalled a scene by a campfire.

"We had like five pieces of wood for the fire, and the fire was lighting the scene. I remember being really stressed out about that, like, 'We're going to run out of wood!'"

"That's how 'indie' the movie was," responded Silva, to laughs.



Twitter: @celinecwright