A film adaptation of the highly successful novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, hits theaters nationwide on September 9th. Starring Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales, who play Ari and Dante, respectively, as well as Eva Longoria, Verónica Falcón, Kevin Alejandro, and Eugenio Derbez. Following its successful festival run, including a premiere at the 47th International Toronto Film Festival (TIFF), GLAAD Senior Communications Associate Jose Useche interviewed the film’s screenwriter and director, Aitch Alberto, to talk Ari and Dante’s upcoming release, what audiences can expect, and the film’s special connection to LGBTQ and Latine people.
(Please note this interview has been condensed for clarity.)
JU: How did your collaboration on Aristotle and Dante come to be? Were you a fan of the book prior?
AA: Ari and Dante found me by way of a friend in 2014. I read the novel in one sitting and it unlocked something in me that I won’t ever be able to explain. After reading the novel I was determined to tell this story at all cost. In 2016, I reached out to Benjamin [Alire Sáenz], the author, and he gave me his blessing and his support. So needless to say, I was a fan of the book.
Alberto approached Alire Sáenz about the book seven years ago. “I’ll forever be indebted to him,” she adds.
JU: Can you share any fun, interesting, or challenging moments while creating this film?
AA: I’m 9 years into this journey, and I think time alone is an example of how challenging this has been. But sometimes time blesses us with space to step into our truth which is what is true for me. I don’t think I would’ve been capable of bringing this story to life with the gentle lens it has had I not had that time.
JU: Beautiful. One of the book’s many triumphs is indeed its gentle lens. What are you hoping audiences leave with after seeing Aristotle and Dante?
AA: I hope audiences are inspired to believe that magic is possible. Inspired to lead with a little more empathy and compassion. But more importantly, to accept and love ourselves just as we are which will allow us to notice the love around us, and accept that love because that is what makes us capable of anything.
On the film’s representation of LGBTQ and Latine people, Aitch offers that the films goes “beyond the niche that many want to put it in.” She instead takes a page from Aristotle’s book: “He doesn’t claim sexuality, he claims love, and his love for this other human transcends sexuality.”
“It’s my ultimate goal for this movie to transcend beyond identity. I refuse to other myself, and in turn refuse to other my work. I’d like to focus on that and hope that the work celebrates both communities you mention.”
GLAAD asks Aitch for one final thought – do have you a message to young queer Latine people who may be struggling with their identity?
AA: I often call ‘our struggle’ our ‘ugly.’ Our identity isn’t our whole story – it informs our perspective, but we are much more than ‘our ugly.’ And often that ‘ugly’ becomes your superpower.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is coming to theaters nationwide starting Friday, September 8th.
Be on the lookout for special Q&A screenings throughout opening weekend in select locations.
Learn more here.