March 22, 2023

A still from Cassandro by Roger Ross Williams, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Cassandro is a film directed by Roger Ross Williams with screenplay by Williams and David Teague. It stars Gael García Bernal, Perla de la Rosa, Roberta Colindrez, and Raúl Castillo.


Based on a true story, Cassandro follows Saúl, a gay amateur luchador, who dreams of stardom. Unfortunately, his character, El Topo, always loses his matches, until he meets his trainer, Sabrina. Sabrina suggests he becomes an exótico, something that Saúl had been avoiding. He ultimately embraces exótico archetype, creating his new unapologetic character, Cassandro. Throughout the film we see the development of Saúl’s character, along with his codependent relationship with his mother, his secret relationship with Gerardo, and his fraught relationship with his father.


The film’s aspect ratio added to setting the time of the film. It had a beautifully bright but muted color palette, that felt really balanced. The whole film features a tremendous attention to detail, and all of the wrestling sequences were also quite impressive.


Bernal shines throughout the film. I loved the tenacity of his character and the humor and confidence he portrayed. His wrestling scenes were amazing and inspiring. I also loved his relationship with his mother, played by Perla de la Rosa.


Cassandro is a heartwarming, inspiring, and heartbreaking story. The film is beautifully shot and felt really grounded and realistic. Saúl was never exploited in the film and is portrayed in an authentic manner. The only thing that bothered me with the film was some of the Spanish to English translations were off or weren’t even included.

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