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Embracing Identity & Breaking Barriers with ‘Cassandro’ Director Roger Ross Williams | EURExclusiveWATCH

*Some stories aren’t just meant to entertain; they are meant to inspire and challenge societal norms. Director Roger Ross Williams’ directorial debut film, “Cassandro,” does precisely that.

The film brings to life the remarkable story of Saúl Armendáriz, an openly gay amateur wrestler from El Paso, Texas, who rises to international stardom as Cassandro, the ‘Liberace of Lucha Libre.’ In an interview with EUR, Williams shares his passion for this inspiring tale and his mission to tell stories of LGBTQ+ heroes.

Williams is largely known for his documentary projects, including the Apple TV+ series “The Super Models.” He shared what about this story made it the right one was for his first time directing a fictional work.

“I was inspired by the inspirational story of Cassandro because here’s someone who basically is in this macho homophobic world. And instead of going into the closet or being someone he’s not, he embraced who he is, learned to love himself with pride, and was so open, and he broke down these barriers of homophobia. That is such an inspiring story. I want to tell inspiring stories, especially inspiring stories about the LGBTQ+ community because there are so many films that are really depressing about queer people. I want to tell stories about queer heroes, things that are fun and exciting.”

Gael García Bernal in Cassandro - Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC
Gael García Bernal in Cassandro – Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

Williams’ commitment to storytelling that uplifts and empowers marginalized voices shines through in “Cassandro.” Central to the film’s success is Gael Garcia Benal, who takes on the lead role of Cassandro. Williams said he pursued the actor because “there was no other person to play this role than him in my eyes. He is an amazing actor, of course, but he’s his ability to embrace a role. He took on the role’s physicality and learned to wrestle; he really is doing mostly all of his own stunts. He’s really dedicated stuff, but he also has the emotional depth to get the story’s emotion, and that relationship between Cassandro and his mother, the yearning for his father.”

The heart of “Cassandro” lies not in its portrayal of sports but in its exploration of self-acceptance and personal growth. Williams emphasizes, “I don’t see this as a sports film at all. I see this as a film about self-acceptance, about a deep character study of someone finding their voice and embracing who they are. The spectacle of the matches, for me, also tells a story of growth. Each fight has a little mini film in it that has grown over that audience. But it’s the personal stuff. It’s at its heart. It’s about the personal relationship between a mother and a son, the yearning for the father.”

“Cassandro” delves into the universal themes of self-discovery, love, and acceptance, transcending the boundaries of sports and wrestling. Williams encapsulates the essence of the film, stating, “it’s about self-acceptance and self-love.”

“Cassandro” is available to stream on Prime Video now.

Jill Munroe is a Los Angeles-bred entertainment journalist, producer, and host. Listen to her live, weeknights 9 PM-Midnight on KBLA Talk 1580. You can follow her on all social media @StilettoJill or check out JillMunroe.com

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