Published: Monday, 11 September 2023 14:01 | Written by Karen Moul
Aitch Alberto has been on a mission. When she read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, she knew immediately that she wanted to tell the story onscreen. Nine years later, she is celebrating the release of her new movie in theaters.
Based on the beloved YA novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Alberto’s film is a beautiful, sensitive story of two teenagers coming of age in Texas in the 1980s. Quiet, resentful Aristotle (Max Pelayo) and free-spirited Dante (Reese Gonzalez) couldn’t be more different, but they quickly become best friends. With Dante’s influence, Ari begins a journey of self-discovery and discovers secrets he didn’t even know he was keeping. In addition to Pelayo and Reese, the film features a powerhouse supporting cast that includes Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Veronica Falcón and Kevin Alejandro.
What was it about this story that inspired Alberto to write and direct the film? As a trans Latina woman, she felt both passion and responsibility.
“The book had a gentleness and a lyricism that we don't often see when it comes to these stories,” she told SciFi Vision. “I was really impassioned, and it felt really urgent for me to be the person that brings these characters to life, because I think it's necessary for my community to have an option that we haven't seen before.
“That comes from us who have lived these experiences and can tell these stories authentically, because we're at the helm and writing our own stories,” she continued, “which is also traditionally not something that we've seen.”
Although Aristotle and Dante are queer Latino characters, Alberto thinks the story’s themes are universal.
“We can all relate to the painful journey of discovering who we are and accepting that, and I think it's easy to distill the story and these characters to one aspect of their identity,” she said. “I think it's really important to celebrate the nuances of everything we are and that's truthfully, just rooting the story in love. That's what becomes universal.
“And that's what I'm most passionate about within this story, for me as a storyteller and a director to move away from the narrative that's exclusively about one aspect of identity. We're not a monolith and there's so much more to investigate and explore.”
Watch the full video of our call to learn why Alberto feels the 1980s setting is so important to the story. She also discussed some story details including the dramatic climax. If you haven’t read the book, consider yourself warned: spoilers!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is available in theaters nationwide.