Salvadorian Writer/Director Julio Torres Hits Big with New Movie Starring
Salvadorian Writer/Director Julio Torres Hits Big with New Movie Starring Tilda Swinton Problemista's Instagram

Salvadoran writer and comedian Julio Torres has captivated audiences and critics alike with his latest film, 'El Problemista', which premiered earlier this month. Sharing the screen with star Tilda Swinton, the movie draws inspiration from Torres' childhood and the hurdles he encountered upon immigrating to New York.

While 'stressful' is the word some experts have used to sum up the film's narrative, it barely skims the surface of Torres' wild ride as an artist landing and thriving in the U.S.

In a recent interview with NPR, the director recalled an absurd anecdote that illustrates how he experienced "all the Catch-22s of the immigration system," a reference to the eponymous novel by Joseph Heller, where a person gets trapped in a no-win dilemma.

He was in his early 20s, having migrated to the U.S. with a student visa -he obtained a Literature degree in 2011-, and then getting a work visa. Things were OK up to that point, but his problems began when he had to transition from a work visa to an artist visa.

In order to get this new visa, Torres needed to prove that he was a working artist. However, he was unable to earn money as an artist without the visa, creating a typical chicken or the egg dilemma.

These scenes might ring a bell for many migrants facing the system's contradictions, which have morphed into full-blown hurdles for countless Latinos trying to reach the 'American dream'.

"Under the work visa I wasn't able to earn money as a stand-up comedian, writer, or anything creative because that's not what the work visa is for," he explained to NPR.

Now 37-years old, Torres is recognized for making waves in the entertainment industry, co-creating HBO's bilingual comedy series 'Los Espookys' and contributing to 'Saturday Night Live.'

In his latest venture, Torres writes, directs, and stars in 'El Problemista,' produced by A24. The film follows Alejandro, an immigrant aspiring to design educational toys for children who has to navigate shady jobs due to his lack of legal status.

British actress Tilda Swinton portrays Elizabeth, an eccentric artist pivotal to Alejandro's journey who has found herself marginalized by society.

Torres' 'El Problemista' is a poignant exploration of individuals existing on the fringes of society, yearning for a sense of belonging and opportunity. He delves into the thematic underpinnings of the film, highlighting its relevance in today's socio-political scenario.

"I came to the U.S. in 2009. And no, to be honest, my experience is radically different from the crisis we're all seeing in the news. The crisis is very present in New York City right now," he told NPR.

"But the thing about me and the character that I play in this movie is that it wasn't really the story of someone escaping for survival. It's the story of someone just escaping or leaving for a greater ambition, to find himself."

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