The national filmmaker based in Paris, Walter Rodriguez Rosales (Lima, 1975), premieres in the next few days in Peru a comedy recorded with a low budget in Miami, where he lived for many years. The comedy Adult Things (2022), his third feature film as a director, is the story of an actor who goes from South American fame to anonymity in the United States and is forced to do, whatever it takes, amateur porn movies full of incidents. We then talk with the director about the project and its commercial premiere, which will be this September 15 in theaters of the CineStar chain.
Walter, a central contemporary theme is migration, which challenges and disturbs the migrant person, and makes the less lucid local people restless and crazy. It usually generates strong dramas, you have done a comedy of intrigues. Tell us how you shaped the idea and the treatment.
I was an undocumented immigrant for many years, and those of us who are now my best friends in Miami, we were a patch of undocumented people, all the time living on the edge. And our daily tragedy was so hard and so unlikely that many times we died of laughter in the middle of crying. We got together on Saturdays at 3 in the morning, leaving work (we all worked in bars, restaurants or nightclubs), and we had a competition of who had the most abominable story in the week. The constant in our stories was the same: the number one enemy of the undocumented immigrant is the immigrant with papers, especially if the undocumented refuses to follow the circuit of blackmail and oppression. And it is that Latin Miami is, more or less, a banana dictatorship. There is only room for those who think like those in power: people from the extreme right. You don’t even have to be rich, you just have to match the faco speech. There is no room for dissidence. As if to give you an idea, there is a Nicaraguan restaurant in Little Havana with a hermitage dedicated to Anastasio Somoza, which has a plaque that says “Anastasio Somoza, loved his people.” Latin Miami is the land where Bayly says things on television that are so fascist that they wouldn’t even be allowed in Lima. That’s the twisted, mind-boggling world where he emerges adult things: the tragedy is so tragic that the person who suffers from it constantly provokes hysterical laughter that he uses as a defense mechanism. That’s where Chango comes from, the character played by Alonso Espeleta: a poor guy, from the village, resentful of the system and who lives by sabotaging it.
The film shows sharp contrasts. The actor played by Angello Bertini is famous in South America, fallen into disgrace by tabloid TV journalism, but in Miami he is an NN, at the mercy of a shady businessman who swarms in the sector, and must become an improvised amateur porn filmmaker. You are playfully commenting on the asymmetry between the world’s leading power and Latin America.
Well, it’s no secret that the role of actress Roxana Peña, who plays the host of a show that destroys the main character’s career, is based on Magaly Medina. And, precisely, the monologue that justifies her bad behavior was taken from one of her many monologues from the end of the 90s, when she was happy and unpunished. On the other hand, many other Peruvian actors I met in Miami 20 years ago moved there precisely because Magaly had destroyed their careers and, in some cases, not happy with that, she gave herself the time and the budget to send her henchmen to chase them down in Miami and humiliate them by showing them working less glamorous jobs while they were just trying to start a new life. All for the benefit of rating. The character played by Angello Bertini has to go from being a famous actor to being the house boy of a shady talent agent who is also dedicated to prostituting aspiring actresses. Two businesses that go very hand in hand not only in the US but in Europe as well. That’s not a secret either.
The asymmetry that you indicate comes when the famous actor who did not fold a napkin must now run errands for a guy with a lot of power and very little class. To be honest, there we exploit the schadenfreude [N.E.: el placer de ver humillado al otro] that the ordinary public experiences when they see an upper class person return to box 1, especially when the upper class person is less prepared to survive in an environment where he has no privilege. But, unlike Magaly, we are not selling the public execution of a pituco, but rather we try to get the audience to accompany a pituco who falls from grace, “becomes human” and decides to fight to get ahead.
He stars in the role of Bertini, but there are more characters, subplots, and themes. In Miami anyone can be marginalized; extreme commercialization defines American life; the audiovisual is unstable; the creator suffers from nightmares; the artistic work is able to come from chaos.
The immigrant in California crosses the Arizona desert for three days and arrives to send money to his family. The immigrant in Miami arrives by plane and with a plan to conquer the world. A difference that does not detract from any of the parties, but Miami immigration is sui generis and also explains why the stress of all the characters around Bertini to become either rich or famous. That stress in this story has an inexplicable dramatic richness: Bertini is Scarlet O’Hara, poor and on her knees, but also without papers. With the same self entitlement that he deserves success and the same conviction. And it is that, also, the life of the immigrant in Miami is sometimes amazing: the same day that one weighs Shakira’s tomatoes in the supermarket, the other serves Juanes a beer, and the other parks Maluma’s car . In the end, if so many stars surround you, it is inevitable to think that oneself also has a chance in the American dream.
In the film, the protagonist has a recurring dream: A stunning blonde flatters him and pampers him: that’s fame. Bertini’s character may be poor, undocumented, in debt and lonely as a dog, but he is still an artist who dreams of making love with fame. That is the converging point in the story and with all the actors and crew that took part in the film. Every day, every scene in every shot, we always repeated to ourselves “this time we’re doing it!” And look, a small film with a meager budget is now in commercial theaters.
Let’s review the stereotype game. In the Latin imaginary in Miami, what states that Moulin pretends to be Cuban?
It is no secret to anyone that Cubans are the most influential group in Miami. They are the bosses. Everything revolves around them: culture, politics, business and of course influences. Papo Moulin, played by Miguel Paneke, is a Central American who poses as a Cuban, precisely to make others think that he is also part of this “untouchable” group. But not only that, he also pretends to be gay to give a sophisticated touch to that parody of himself. I have personally known many Latinos who, in order to be accepted or to be part of the “circle of power,” begin by adopting the political positions of the Cuban exile and in many cases end up using the same accent. It’s not a joke, I know a kid from Buenos Aires who speaks like a peasant from Guanabacoa, like that, without shame. And I don’t blame him, after all in the US they always say fake it till you make it (pretend until you become what you pretend to be).
Let’s go to production. Under what conditions have you made the film, how much did it cost, what difficulties did you have recording in a pandemic, how close do you feel to the protagonist?
What I can say is that it cost less than a used car. I explain why. At the end of the second wave of the pandemic, in the summer of 2021, I was in Paris, where I have lived for 4 years, emotionally exhausted and somewhat depressed. I was on the phone with María Luz Zucchella, a producer from Los Angeles, a close friend of mine, who told me: “Why don’t you leave everything and go to Miami to film something? I don’t know, make a short film, I’ll finance it and we’ll take it to festivals”. “Oh, no, if I go to Miami I have to do a lap,” I told him. “No one can make a feature film with the budget of a short”, “ah, no?, send me the money and watch me!”, I reacted. Three days later I bought my ticket to Miami.
I wrote the story on the plane and arriving in Miami I met with Guillermo García, an Argentine screenwriter I know from my years as an undocumented immigrant. We spent entire nights dying of laughter, playing God in the middle of gallons of Corona beer, to continue with the irony. In the end we had 98 pages and 40 characters. You imagine! So I thought of Roxana Peña, a wonderful Peruvian actress who has been working for almost 20 years in Miami and has done many series and soap operas. I met Roxana in Lima, when I worked on the lighting team on the soap opera “La rica Vicky” and she already had a screen. I called her up and told her: “I have a comedy, I have no money, but I swear to you that you have never seen a director who works so hard in your life”. She burst out laughing and she immediately told me yes, without even reading the script. Roxana is a wonderful woman and she was a fundamental piece in the making of the film. That’s where the complicated part began, getting a cast of actors that not only had talent, but also understood that we were doing anti-cinema. There is no glamour, no army of attendees, no air-conditioned dressing rooms, no government funding, and no guarantee of success. Only desire to film, as we said at San Marcos University: Heroic creation. The actors put on makeup by themselves, I was the cameraman, the director of photography, the direction of the actors, Eduardo Leguía, a very talented Peruvian producer who did many commercials in Peru and today lives in Miami, solved all our needs with a smile and that reputation that he has earned in the 10 years he resides in Miami. Recording without permission, with that faith that you only have when you truly fall in love.
How close to the character can we feel? Not just me but this group of Inglorious Basterds. We are filming the movie of two guys who put everything on the field filming without money and aiming for a goal, being ourselves some guys who put everything on the field aiming at a goal.
In what other countries will “Adult Things” be released? The cocktail of adventure, action, risk and mischief in Miami could attract a diverse Latin American public.
The truth is that we produced the film to be distributed on digital platforms, but through María Luz, people from the CineStar chain saw the film and insisted on putting it on the billboard in Lima. I am the first surprised and, why not, flattered with the faith placed in this project. Now we are already talking to networks in Mexico and Central America and, of course, the Latin circuit in Miami and Los Angeles.