Preview: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Preview%3A+Aristotle+and+Dante+Discover+the+Secrets+of+the+Universe

The film adaptation of the best-selling novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe had its world premiere on Friday, Sep. 9, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Aristotle and Dante, written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, follows two Mexican-American teenagers in the late 1980s as they struggle to accept themselves and tackle the challenges of being a teenager. Years after filming first started, the highly-anticipated movie finally had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) alongside hundreds of other unreleased films. A teaser was posted prior to its private screening as well, which shows a small part of the film.

“It’s less than two minutes in length, but already, it’s clear that good choices were made with this cast,” journalist LH said in their article about the clip. “It’s taken from the beginning of the story at the local public pool where they introduce themselves for the first time and stumble over the unique and nerdy names they both have.”

Aitch Alberto, a transgender and Latinx filmmaker, is making her directing debut with help from Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who narrated the audiobooks for both Aristotle and Dante novels. Alberto first stumbled upon the book in 2014 and immediately fell in love with it, as she tells Variety in an interview. Determined to make it into a movie, Alberto met up with the author to pitch her idea.

“…I wrote the script on spec and reached out to the author, Ben, and I told him I wanted to meet him. And then a couple of days later, I was in El Paso,” Alberto told Variety. “We spent four days together, and at the end of that trip he told me, ‘These boys were mine, and now I give them to you.’”

One important factor in making this movie was casting the right actors, and Alberto believes they’ve done just that. Young actors Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales, who are playing Ari and Dante respectively, have been described as “nothing short of cosmic”. Pelayo perfectly embodies Ari’s internal conflicts, while Gonzales channels Dante’s carefree charm and identity troubles, as described by journalist Jericho Tadeo.

“I’ve always related so much to Dante, and being able to bring him to life has been a gift,” Gonzales told Deadline in an interview. “Everyday, even after we were done filming, I have these little moments where I actually have to remind myself that I need to just let go and be who I am, and Dante helped bring that into fruition within me.”

I realize the difference I can make with film. It is my duty to celebrate the stories of marginalized individuals while also playing against tropes and stereotypes, specifically of the Latinx community.”

— Aitch Alberto

Aristotle and Dante is not only a sentimental coming-of-age story but a tribute to the hardships of queer people in the 20th century. Dante also sheds light on people’s struggles with their ethnic identities, mentioning multiple times throughout the book that he doesn’t feel like “a real Mexican”. These topics being discussed have made thousands of people feel seen and heard, while also adding important representation for the Latinx community.

“As a Latinx filmmaker, my goal is to transcend race and sexuality,” Alberto told VoyageLA in an interview. “Audiences are hungry for diversity, but most importantly, for new stories. As I’ve grown creatively, I realize the difference I can make with film. It is my duty to celebrate the stories of marginalized individuals while also playing against tropes and stereotypes, specifically of the Latinx community.”

Unfortunately, until a distribution company picks up the film, fans won’t have a release date. Many are hopeful that it will be picked up soon as the film has received a lot of positive feedback following its private screenings at TIFF; some are expecting an early 2023 release if it’s picked up within the next month. Regardless of when it’s finally available, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe should make an impact on all who watch it.

“I would love people to walk away from the film believing that love could come in unexpected ways, in unexpected places, and in unexpected forms,” Arnold told Woman and Hollywood. “Understanding that is truly discovering the secrets of the universe.”