Problemista 2023

Directed by Julio Torres Widescreen

Julio Torres makes a bold directorial debut with a bright, colourful and unique take on the American dream featuring a delightfully manic performance from Tilda Swinton.

Aug 10

The Civic

Aug 16

The Civic

USA In English
104 minutes Colour / DCP

Director, Screenplay


Fredrik Wenzel


Sara Shaw, Jacob Secher Schulsinger

Production Designer

Katie Byron

Costume Designer

Catherine George


Robert Ouyang Rusli


Julio Torres, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Isabella Rossellini, Catalina Saavedra, James Scully, Laith Nakli, Spike Einbiner, Logan J. Alarcon-Poucel, Greta Lee, Larry Owens


SXSW 2023; Sydney 2024


Presented in association with


Set in a colourful, surreal, and just ever-so-slightly alternate reality that could only have been created by actor, writer and director Julio Torres, Problemista follows Alejandro, a young man from El Salvador whose dream in life is to work for Hasbro, designing toys that challenge children rather than being “too focused on fun”. But first, he must overcome his own challenges.

As he struggles to navigate America’s baffling immigration process, Alejandro finds an unlikely ally in Elizabeth (played to absolutely unhinged perfection by Tilda Swinton), who can only be described as a hyper-Hydra on cocaine. She hires the overly agreeable Alejandro as her assistant, and the two develop a fascinating dynamic; he quickly realises that the only way to tame the beast is to buy into her bizarre reality and make her feel understood. Elizabeth, in turn, lets down her walls and becomes just a little more trusting –   anyone who has survived an empath/narcissist relationship will relate. The odd couple work on their challenges in tandem; Alejandro, desperate for money to fund his visa application, enters the deranged world of Craigslist (hilariously embodied by Larry Owens), and Elizabeth struggles to find the money to keep her beloved husband “alive” in a cryogenic freezing facility, while also mourning the “death” of the only person she feels understood her.  

Anyone familiar with Torres’s work (Los Espookys, Fantasmas) will recognise his fondness for colour theory, which he uses to create worlds of whimsy, surrealism, and absurdity. Problemista is no exception, and effectively makes the point that nothing could beat the very real absurdity of America’s convoluted immigration system. A marvellous and astounding directorial debut, we’re on the edge of our seats eagerly awaiting more beautiful cinematic worlds from the mind of Torres. — Louise Adams