By José Alberto Hermosillo
“Cassandro” is inspiring, moving, and original, with flashes of shame and glory. It is one of the best biopics about an openly gay Mexican wrestler ever! (actually, it is the only one).
|Gael Garcia Bernal as Cassandro, Amazon Prime Video|
Saúl dreams of becoming a strong wrestler; one day, he may eventually win. He learns about the “exóticos,” a group of male wrestlers dressed in drag with feminine touches. The “exóticos” are now an essential part of the “Lucha Libre” as the “Rudos” and “Técnicos” (the bad and good guys, respectively). The exóticos inspired Saúl Armendáriz to become Cassandro.
Saúl came out when he was thirteen. He and his mother, Yocasta (Perla de la Rosa), have a close and condescending relationship. They dream of owning a big house with a heart-shaped swimming pool, but it is hard for a peasant to escape the barrio.
Lady Anarquía trains him with no money to pay; she will do it for something exchangeable later, such as friendship. They play with the idea of becoming exótico. But he refuses it by saying they don't let exóticos win. The idea of his new name also comes from a telenovela they watch on TV.
|Cassandro's signature move is a flying jump.|
The film Idiosyncrasy has no boundaries. Crossing the border and driving through the international bridge back and forth seems normal for locals. In El Paso, Texas, his mother compassionately tells him to give water to the immigrants crossing through their backyard; you never know if they must be thirsty and hungry or bring little children.
|Roger Ross Williams & film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA, 2016|
The Award-winning documentarian Roger Ross Williams (“Love to Love You Baby,” “The Apollo”) embodies the Latino culture as one of his own, making "Cassandro" his first narrative feature. In 2016, Ross Williams led the Oscar-nominated documentary “Life, Animated,” where he vividly chronicles the life of an autistic boy who communicates through Disney drawings. In “Cassandro,” Ross Williams presents the different subcultures of Latino, Mexican, Chicano, LGBTQ, and Macho Wrestling communities with high respect and understanding.
|Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos|
The music score by Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos (“The Equalizer 3,” “Flamin’ Hot,” “Human Capital,” and “Sin Nombre”) is exquisite, languid, and haunting.
The music presented at the end credits has a heroic rhythm that stays with us for some time to remind us about the life and legacy of the now legend “Cassandro,” the exótico.
|Bad Bunny & Gael García Bernal in "Cassandro."|
A big shoutout to casting director Luis Rosales to place together such an impressive international cast: Gael García Bernal, megastar pop star Bad Bunny (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio), El Hijo del Santo, Joaquín Cosio, Perla de la Rosa, Roberta Colindrez, Julieta Ortiz, Leonardo Alonso, Raúl Castillo, and real-life wrestlers.
It was an enormous job to cast talent for both sides of the border, requiring some skills and willingness to get things done right in both languages. Like Hollywood, many companies divide their working areas into English or Spanish-speaking – with nothing in the middle to work for bilingual people. It is challenging to approach either group with such a division in an industry that sells its projects globally.
|French documentary "Cassandro, The Exótico." Available on Tubi.|
The 2018 French documentary about the life of the wrestler born in Ciudad Juárez and residing in El Paso, Texas, “Cassandro, the Exótico!” by Marie Losier, has more understanding of the goals and the tremendous success of the epic fighter. The star of the gender-bending cross-dressing Mexican wrestler states that he does not like to be labeled as the "gay exótico" for the way he dresses or for kissing his opponents in the fights. Everything is part of the amusement and well-choreographed show. He is determined to demonstrate his talent and professional skills inside and outside by training others to continue fighting in the ring.
As we dig deeply into the story and learn more about this “sui generis” character, Gael Garcia’s performance in the ring kicking and flying is phenomenal, almost like watching the real Cassandro in his epic fights.
Overall, “Cassandro” is highly entertaining for people who like fights or enjoy queer movies and for everyone who genuinely loves good cinema.
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