LATV: Aitch Alberto’s New Film is Her “Life’s Work”
September 6, 2023
Aitch Alberto’s film, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, is a coming-of-age story, a tale of queer love, and an exploration of Mexican identity. Above all, it’s about truth and finding a voice that reflects your truth, even when obstacles stand in the way.
For the film’s protagonist, Ari, that includes familial disappointment, aggression, communication troubles, and a festering fear of himself. Dante — more eclectic, outspoken, and better acquainted with the truth — offers Ari emotional tools, by merely living authentically. In return, Ari offers Dante loyalty, protection, and frequent rides in his truck. Together, they discover that their differences are their superpowers, their similarities reflections of themselves. And, eventually, their friendship is strong enough to turn to love (well, Ari finally finds the strength to meet Dante at his level of truth).
Ari’s and Dante’s families fill in the story with rich nuance. These supporting characters showcase how the ones who love us come out with us, at their own time and in their own styles. Toward the end of the film, on their front porch, when Ari’s father finally speaks up, you will be brought to tears. He just couldn’t bear witness to his son’s self-created loneliness any longer. It didn’t matter what kinds of expectations were being broken anymore. Ari was meant to love Dante, and even he knew it.
Though set in 1987 El Paso, there is something contemporary about these characters, something relatable that makes this story current and necessary. Aristotle and Dante not only blends queer joy and queer pain, but tells a simple and relatable story made beautiful by its specificness in style.
We sat down with director Aitch Alberto for a closer look at where this film falls in her journey as a filmmaker.
EXCLUSIVE Q & A WITH AITCH ALBERTO
When you were first emerging as an artist, when was the moment you realized you wanted to be a director?
Well, I acted for a really long time. I didn’t know that you could have a career in directing and writing because I never had seen anybody like me doing it. So, I was really immersed in the acting world, which was my pursuit for many years, until I was at an audition and realized my heart wasn’t in it anymore (as far as acting went) and what I really wanted to pursue was directing and writing, so then I started to shift my attention to that. […] It almost felt like it was kismet. I felt like I had found my purpose. So, yeah, things started slowly evolving. I started making my own short films, writing my own projects. And then I found Aristotle and Dante, and that became my life’s work.
Describe your mission as an artist.
My mission as an artist is to tell stories about people that are not only a reflection of me, but a reflection of people I love, that celebrates the nuance of everything we are, which is not often what we see. And it’s moving beyond the narrative of stories solely fueled by our identity. I think it informs our perspective, but it is [not the whole] story.
How do you like telling queer stories?
I think that question goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. I [could tell] any story, not just queer stories. But I think when it comes to telling stories about marginalized groups, it’s important not to portray it as if we’re a monolith — because I think we’re so much more.
[…] There’s definitely a rise of stories about the Latino community, about the trans community, and about the queer community in general that feel a lot more grounded and a lot more about other things rather than, again, our identity, which is very refreshing. It’s because we’re telling our own stories, which is not what we’ve done in the past.