Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Problemista Cast, Director, Trailer, Plot And More Details

As the 2023 Cannes Film Festival rages on in France, the world's most renowned filmmakers — including Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodóvar, and Hirokazu Kore-eda — gather to share their highly anticipated projects. For a glimpse at the weirder gems of American independent cinema, however, the stateside festivals more than suffice. Austin's South by Southwest is especially fertile ground for strange and scrappy pictures, with the 2023 festival home to "Evil Dead Rise" and Emma Seligman's "Shiva Baby" follow-up, "Bottoms."

To the delight of critics and weirdos alike, one strong showing at this year's SXSW Film Festival was Julio Torres' directorial debut, "Problemista." Torres is best known for his series "Los Espookys," which, before its premature cancelation in 2022, was one of the best shows on HBO Max.

In the official "Problemista" review for /Film, critic Erin Brady wrote, "Torres' comedic and aesthetic stylings throughout 'Problemista' tease the domination of an emerging auteur." Here's everything you need to know about the forthcoming film.

When will Problemista be released?

When "Los Espookys" went on pause for a COVID hiatus between Seasons 1 and 2, Julio Torres used that time to write and direct "Problemista." It wasn't his original plan. The comedy writer and actor first wanted to direct an episode of "Los Espookys," he put it to The Hollywood Reporter, as a "trial run." But when life gives you lemons, you make a movie.

"Problemista" premiered at SXSW on March 13, 2023, and was originally scheduled for a limited August 4 release in theaters, before going wide on August 25. However, the 2023 Hollywood strikes pushed the release date back. We don't yet know what its new release date will be; it will reportedly be determined at a later date. For now, all we can do is wait and see.

Who is starring in Problemista?

"Problemista" may be Julio Torres' directorial debut, but it is also his first time leading a feature film. Torres stars as Alejandro Martinez, the film's protagonist. Insofar as Torres' acting career is concerned, he's best known for playing Andrés, an eccentric heir to a wealthy family of chocolatiers, in "Los Espookys." He's also appeared in episodes of "High Maintenance," "The Other Two," and "Search Party," and he played Ricochet in a three-episode arc of "Shrill." Additionally, Torres has contributed voice work to series like "Bob's Burgers," "Tuca & Bertie," and "The Great North."

The "Problemista" cast is rounded out by a slate of impressive talent, most notably Tilda Swinton as Alejandro's erratic boss. "It's a testament to her that she never felt intimidating," Torres told The Hollywood Reporter of working with Swinton. "It really felt no different to me than the joy of working with friends."

Other cast members include Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, Catalina Saavedra, James Scully, Laith Nakli of "Ramy" fame, Greta Lee, Larry Owens, and Greta Titelman, the latter of whom had a major role in "Los Espookys." Isabella Rossellini provides her sonorous voice as the film's narrator.

What is the plot of Problemista?

"Problemista" follows Alejandro, an aspiring toy maker from El Salvador, who gets fired from his day job. In danger of losing his work visa, Alejandro takes a job assisting Elizabeth (Swinton), a washed-up outcast in the New York art scene. The film is a combination of Torres' trademark surreal sensibility with the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the U.S. immigration system.

For Torres, "Problemista" is true to his experience going through the hurdles of the immigration process. "It's very much a mosaic of different experiences. I think it mostly communicates on how I felt at a particular point in time," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "When you see it, you'll see it's not completely grounded in truth, but the seed of it stems from my recollection of a lived experience."

Torres also broke down the meaning of the film's title. "To me, in the way that I define it in this movie, it's someone who either creates or seeks problems and/or someone who creates art from problems," he said. "Someone who is comfortable in problems." Bureaucracy — one of the film's main preoccupations — is certainly a font of problems. Torres is especially interested in the alienation such convoluted institutions induce. "It's a film about people feeling dehumanized by a process, whether that be immigration, or being in debt, or navigating an insurance company," Torres remarked to The Provincetown Independent. "Our lives now are often dictated by what we see on our phones or our email, and I think we are catching up on how to portray the emotionality of that, which is something I'm interested in figuring out."

Who is writing, directing, and producing Problemista?

Julio Torres wrote and directed "Problemista," and for anyone following the entertainer's career, the upcoming film was a long time coming. Torres got his start writing for "The Chris Gethard Show" and "Saturday Night Live," and for the latter series, he earned four Primetime Emmy nominations as part of the writing staff.

At "SNL," Torres honed his distinct voice, penning such modern classics as "The Actress" and "Wells for Boys," before co-creating HBO Max's "Los Espookys" with Fred Armisen and Ana Fabrega. In 2019, he starred in his own stand-up special, "My Favorite Shapes," in which he sings the praises of Brita filters, plants, and other objects.

For Torres' aforementioned "SNL" sketches, he found an unlikely muse in Emma Stone, who would go on to join Torres in producing "Problemista." Along with her husband, "SNL" alum Dave McCary, Stone is producing "Problemista" under their Fruit Tree banner. The film isn't the only Torres and Stone collaboration in the works; she's also set to executive produce his upcoming series "Little Films."

Is there a trailer for Problemista?

A24 released the first official trailer for "Problemista" on May 24. "This is the story of Alejandro," Isabella Rossellini delivers in voiceover. Torres' predilection toward surreality becomes immediately apparent, as seen when someone suddenly vanishes from an immigration office, their papers fluttering to the floor. Other Torres flourishes emerge as well; his penchant for tchotchkes and objects, known to anyone who's seen "My Favorite Shapes," come through in his character's eccentric collection of handmade toys.

Still, "Problemista" is a film very much based in reality, even if it's Torres' colorful, strange version of reality. Alejandro's strained relationship with the capricious, hard-to-please Elizabeth is very much a reality check, as he depends on her employment to stay in the country. "You must find a sponsor and pay fees to earn money," Rossellini narrates as Alejandro crawls through an otherworldly, Charlie Kaufman-esque construction of offices — an apt metaphor for the immigration system's puzzle of demands and red tape. "The maze is impossible to navigate."

A second trailer dropped on July 11. It hammers the film's interest in bureaucracy home; Alejandro pleads with bank representatives, government employees walk past hundreds of hourglasses labeled with aspiring immigrants' names, and calls home are interrupted by computerized demands for more money. This is a decidedly frenetic trailer, with many brief clips jammed up against each other. What results is a wild, absurd, and dizzying tone that effectively mirrors the bizarre and ever-changing experience of immigration.