Isabel Sandoval is a rule-breaker.
Her third feature film, 2019’s Lingua Franca earned her a place in history as the first openly trans woman to have a film screened at Venice Film Festival, a fact she describes as “a double-edged sword.” She knows that being the first in an industry like this comes with equal parts lament and hope for the future and wants her part to be opening the door just a little more to women of color in any artistic medium.
As we talk about the complicated nature of the FX series Under the Banner of Heaven, the adaptation of the true crime story of murder within the Mormon community in the 1980s that was created by Dustin Lance Black and based on the nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer, we open up about combating oppression of women being a focal point of her work and how and why she was the right person to direct the penultimate and pivotal episode “Revelation” of the series.
We talk about how the series came to her, why and how she said yes (Black had seen Lingua Franca and thought she was perfect for the episode) and the process of joining an existing team of creatives after being at the head of her own solitary artistic visions. “It actually felt like a relief for me,” she says, “I was really, genuinely collaborating,” she continued.
Our conversation highlights the work Sandoval did with the three main actors whose arc come to a head in this episode: Daisy Edgar Jones as the ill-fated but strong-willed Brenda Lafferty, Sam Worthington as the maligned by his father Brother Ron Lafferty and how her work with two-time Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield playing Brother Jeb Pyre gave both some of the most rewarding moments in their careers. “It was just about giving them the space to be present and be in the moment.”
On working with Garfield, Sandoval admits she was intimidated. “He comes to set prepared, he has done his homework and his research.” Sandoval continues, saying “That process was so exhilarating because he demands so highly of himself…that you can only step up and meet those standards, but always sweet and gracious throughout the whole process.”
Isabel Sandoval is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for the episode “Revelation” of Under the Banner of Heaven.
Image courtesy of Michelle Faye/FX