We couldn’t be more psyched to catch Brooklyn-based filmmaker Yara Travieso’s short film Third Trinity, which will be premiering in her hometown of Miami next week at the 37th Miami Film Festival. As major Yara fangirls, a good portion of the BELatina team will be in the audience cradling vats of popcorn and handfuls of gummy worms to experience the latest work from this dynamic Latina director.
Third Trinity, adapted from prolific Miami writer-director Teo Castellanos’ play of the same name — an epic narrative based on his own life — is the story of a Puerto Rican artist named Wilma who receives an impossible premonition that “she will have three sons and two will be born before the one in her womb.” The prospect of having to give up her artistic practice for motherhood weighs heavily on this expectant mother, but her own mom, a santera, sees things differently.
This is Travieso’s second work to be shown at the Miami Film Festival; her first, La Medea, received critical acclaim for its immersive, interactive, multimedia reimagination of the Greek tragedy in which Medea carries out revenge on her straying husband and kills basically everyone in the process. Her work has consistently questioned and repurposed the act of storytelling through film, embodying an unapologetically feminist spirit.
With that foil in mind, Third Trinity is a departure from what audiences might expect to find in Travieso’s work, in part because it was a close collaboration with Castellanos and the story based on his life that originated with his voice. Though they share hometowns — Travieso is of Cuban descent — their cross-generational perspectives left them space to explore, through their collaborative writing process, what could be brought to the screen. Also in contrast to her oeuvre, Travieso described the film as a more traditional rendering of narrative, a quiet story infused with magical realism and a languid Caribbean poetry and sense of humor. Yes, it is a film that has a backdrop of Santeria — shot in Miami, by the way — but don’t expect the usual Hollywood theatrics or hysterics over the religion. Produced by the team behind Moonlight — and with Castellanos on board as an executive producer to his story — Third Trinity shuns those tropes for a truer take, something that reflects Castellanos’ lived experience. “Teo and I wanted to make the magic of the Caribbean, not as a spectacle, but as the way we grew up with it: as casual and familiar as a morning cafe con leche where Santeria altars sit in the kitchen and daily premonitions are held in the dining room,” explained Travieso.
Travieso worked alongside Castellanos to bring the bilingual script to life on the big screen through her directorial sensibilities as a female creator, channeling what is a tale based on the playwright’s original work about his own origins. Naturally, Travieso focuses the camera’s lens on the characters embodying the mother and grandmother of Castellanos’ narrative, while adding in her own existential considerations by introducing the big question of what happens to a woman’s work and identity as an artist after she has a child. All of this was further refined and reshaped as the co-writers collaborated to coax out an authentically Puerto Rican cadence to the film. The result is a testament to how we can all make beautiful things happen when we hear one another, really see each other, and acknowledge the power of those shared experiences.
“I wanted to honor Teo’s incredible work while still making the final film personal to me. Teo was extraordinarily generous with his story,” Travieso shared. “And working together was such a memorable collaborative experience for me.”
The parent-artist question that Travieso added to Castellanos’ work is one that she, personally, has posed to herself (though she’s not a mother), as many other artists have. After all, women artists especially have had to grapple with the possibility that the demands of motherhood will smother their ability to continue to create beyond this incredible act of becoming and being a parent.
“I was really drawn to Wilma, our young protagonist who opens the film on the bathroom floor, pregnant and processing the physical fears and creative anxieties of motherhood,” said Travieso, explaining why she decided to transform the character of Wilma into an aspiring artist. “I feel women often fear that our creative ambitions will be put to the side once we become a mother in a world that doesn’t welcome women taking on both roles.”
Speaking of taking on multiple roles — if you can follow this — the role of Wilma is played by Castellanos’ real-life daughter Jaquén Tee Castellanos, who in the film is playing the role of his mother as she is carrying him in her belly. You follow? The junior Castellanos’ is a brilliant writer unto herself, in Travieso’s own words. In any case, this continual reincarnation of Third Trinity, in so many respects, is only fitting, a reflection of the story’s beyond-multigenerational trajectory, one that was set into motion with Castellanos’ original play. “I love how the narrative really unfolds into many layers of women endlessly transforming death into new life, similar to [the goddess] Yemaya, an Orisha in Yoruba religion,” added Travieso.
Third Trinity premieres as part of a shorts program at Silverspot Cinema in Downtown Miami on Saturday, March 7th at 7pm, as well as at a later 10pm screening on Thursday, March 12th. You can get your tickets now through the Miami Film Festival site.
In the meantime, please pregame with the teaser of the film.
Directed by Yara Travieso
Based on the play by Teo Castellanos
Screenplay by Teo Castellanos and Yara Travieso
Executive produced by Tarell Alvin Mccraney Rebekah Lengel, and Teo Castellanos
Produced by Andrew Hevia and Jason Fitzroy Jeffers
Starring Jaquén Tee Castellanos, Zuleyma Guevara, Sydney Clauser, Liam de la Rosa and Neptune Lawrie
Co-produced by Robert Colom
Costumes by Fernando Rodriguez
Production design by Gaby Vilchez
Original Art by Loni Johnson
Cinematography by Jomo Fray
Edited by Theo Mercado
Music by DJ Le Spam
Post services by Irving Harvey
Sound design by Sam Crawford
Third Trinity, 2019. Presented by 305/one and Tarell Alvin McCraney