Film: “Cassandro” starring Gael Garcia Bernal
Saúl Armendáriz is an American-born Mexican luchador or professional wrestler who worked as an “exotico” under the name Cassandro. By way of information, exoticos are male wrestlers dressed in drag and portraying gay caricatures.
The significance of Cassandro was that he was not only one of the first luchadors who “dressed gay” but was actually openly so.
“Cassandro,” the movie directed by Roger Ross Williams, stars Gael Garcia Bernal as this pioneering LGBT champion. Tired of serving in the role of “El Topo,” basically a 99-pound punching bag for big tough-guy wrestlers, Cassandro decides to come flamboyantly out of the closet, wear eye makeup and feminine attire, and by dint of hard work and talent, win audiences to his side.
The film portrays his rags-to-riches story, from his humble beginnings in El Paso, his relationship with his beloved mother Yocasta (Perla de la Rosa), to his early victories in Juarez and Monterrey. It does not gloss over his secret romance with a handsome but closeted married man (Raul Castillo). Armed with unflagging self-confidence and the support of his female trainer (the wonderful Roberta Colindrez from “Fun Home”), he becomes an underground hero, eventually earning such legitimate wrestling titles as a NWA World Welterweight Championship and UWA World Lightweight Champion.
What could’ve been a typical biopic becomes something exciting with Williams as director and Bernal as Cassandro. Once again, Bernal proves that he is an actor that can do anything, including playing an openly LGBT athlete in a homophobic sport. For such courage, he deserves our respect and your attention.
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