After numerous unpleasant meetings with filmmakers, Isabel Allende had instructed her agent to stop all discussion about making a film of her novel. It wasn't until Bille August screened his Pele the Conqueror for her that she changed her mind. An hour into that screening, she knew that he was the right director.
Several supporting cast members appear to have spoken their lines in another language, and been subsequently dubbed into English. Armin Mueller-Stahl, despite numerous appearances in English-language movies, is also dubbed. Perhaps his German accent was deemed too jarring in a story set in South America.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In the movie, the stories of Blanca and Alba are condensed in Blanca's story. Alba is only shown in the movie only as a Baby, but in Isabel Allende's novel she is the one involved in the social movement in Chile.