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Trapped in the System: Julio Torres on Problemista | Interviews

March 24, 2024 - Movies

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It was more the general direction. I provided very specific things that allowed for the other collaborators, the wardrobe people to really find a world from it. [Elizabeth] likes red and is disheveled and just snowballs from there.

So many parts of “Problemista” feel so timely, especially everything about the U.S. immigration system and the ways you visualize the ridiculous process of it. What was it like excavating and examining that? 

This movie’s very personal, and so I wasn’t thinking about any sort of political statement. I was just expressing emotion and expressing the heart and emotional ecosystem of this specific character. I’m very interested in just bureaucracy and broken systems. And so I made something that was very specific, that felt very honest and very true. And like you say, it’s lo and behold, it’s pretty relevant.

Another thing that feels really relevant watching the film is the idea of people always struggling for something else, which felt very poignant. Larry Owens is so brilliant as Craigslist and you really explore the idea of the gig economy. 

The surprise to me in promoting this movie is how it resonates with so many people. I thought, because at the time when I was living the events that inspired this movie, it felt very lonely, and it felt like I was by myself. Seeing that so many people from different walks of life feel similarly has been very illuminating.

There’s a really great scene in the film when Alejandro learns that his Bank of America account is over-drafted and he has a whole back and forth with the phone representative about the fees. It’s honestly the most haunting scene I’ve seen all year and something that feels so universal but I’ve never seen on screen. How did you come up with that scene?

Showing what it feels like and the emotional journey of trying to appeal to the humanity of someone who’s also trapped in the system, who if they feel like they tap too much into their humanity, then they’re going to lose their job. It is anguish, it is a tragedy. Having River Ramirez play that part was just so fun. It was very exciting to make something feel so real and people have gone through it, but you never, rarely ever see banks getting dragged in the media. I don’t know if people are scared by them or what. 

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