“Problemista” / Publicity photo

Out Julio Torres Stars in ‘Problemista,’ Goran Stolevski Returns with Glorious ‘Housekeeping for Beginners’

Two new films by out directors are on tap now, both well worth the audience’s time. In the new, “Problemista,” Julio Torres (who also writes and directs the feature) stars as Alejandro, who is from El Salvador, but now lives in New York. He wants to make toys for a living, but is having a problem sustaining a work visa — and the only solution he can come up with is working with Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), an art critic on a mission.

In a recent interview, Torres said “Problemista” is very much based on his life.

“I went through similar experiences going from a student visa to a work visa and it’s the movie that came out of me as part of that time,” he said. “I feel there was a genuine sense of frustration with bureaucracy, but at the same time there was a love for life that I wanted to showcase.”

Alejandro is caught in a series of Catch-22s in the film. First and foremost, he needs to come up with money to pay for a work visa, but he is only legally allowed to make money when he has that paperwork.

“He’s like a little mouse in a maze and in that maze, he sort of discovers himself and he grows and learns,” Torres said. “It’s presented as surrealistic, almost fairy tale-like.”

Despite their differences — and where they are in their lives — Alejandro and Elizabeth bond, and Alejandro learns a lot from his new boss.

Torres is glad to be in an era where being openly gay is no longer the career killer it was once thought to be.

“It’s frankly just a privilege that many of us take for granted, that not that many years ago that would have been challenging,” he said. “I think my film is very casually queer; the LGBTQ hashtag would not be the first one in the list. I think that is because for audiences it’s not that big for them to wrap their minds around. It behooves us to keep the door open and make sure that other kinds of creators who don’t have this kind of opportunity are not left behind.”

A former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” Torres wants to continue to write and direct. He is in post-production on an HBO sketch event that will come out later this year, then he will take time out to figure out his next project.

In early 2023, Goran Stolevski’s film drama, “Of An Age” was released to sizable acclaim. His followup is the new drama, “Housekeeping for Beginners,” which is about several young LGBTQ characters who find themselves under one roof. Social worker Dita (Anamaria Marinca) finds herself in a situation where she has to take care of her girlfriend Suada’s two young girls and deal not only with the husband she “marries,” but his male lover as well.

The director’s first seed for the idea was when a friend posted a photograph online from when she was young in the ’70s, having moved to Melbourne for the first time and moved into a house with eight gay women. It was a random snapshot from their day-to-day life. Stolevski saw the photo and thought, “I want to go there.”

“The sense of warmth and energy coming out of it — what a great feeling of living your life on your own terms within this world,” he said.

He also wanted to make a current-day film for many reasons.

“I want to be documenting lives in the present tense that would otherwise go undocumented,” Stolevski said. “I want a record of people who exist right now. We might not know they existed 50 years from now if we don’t capture these stories.”

The characters of Dita and Suada are at odds in certain ways at the beginning.

“There is the kind of tension and friction you get in any marriage,” Stolevski said. “That is what I was drawn to. I want my films to be specific and unapologetic. I don’t think queer feelings are niche feelings. I don’t think queer and universal are contradictory; to me, that is a stand-in for universal feelings and that marriage. The dynamic of it is just two people in a relationship. They can yell at each other for five minutes then hold each other tenderly for the next five.”

Circumstances are forcing these characters to grow and evolve. That is the kind of material Stolevski gravitates to.

“I am always drawn to those kinds of stories where the characters have to deal with circumstances they cannot control or escape from and are innately trying to live the most emotionally fulfilling life they can,” he said. “But when there are limitations, how do you still do it — live a life that is still meaningful and fulfilling? In this case, there are no role models for these characters to look up to. They have to figure it out for themselves.”

“Problemista” is in area theaters now

“Housekeeping for Beginners” opens in Atlanta April 12