Venice World Premiere
TIFF North American Premiere
THE OTHER TOM | EL OTRO TOM
A film by RODRIGO PLÁ AND LAURA SANTULLO
Stubborn, disruptive, unpredictable, unfocused, angry, nine-year-old Tom is, to say the least, not a good fit in the regulated environment of a public classroom in El Paso, Texas.
And his demands weigh heavily on his mother Elena, a single parent juggling jobs and social service assistance, while trying to maintain some sort of life of her own.
Elena is initially cooperative when the boy is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and given a set of medications to counteract his “inappropriate” behavior.
But when Tom becomes a depressed shell of his former self, with a frightening potential for self-injury, Elena makes the fateful decision to throw away his drugs despite the consequences – from the school, and then from children’s protective services who threaten to remove Tom from her care. Even drug-free options approved by the state carry an implicit threat for non-co-operation.
In The Other Tom, award-winning director Rodrigo Plá and co-director Laura Santullo humanize a complex subject, the “normality” demanded by the educational system and the drugs-as-first-response mentality that sees millions of parents essentially tranquilize their children.
The Other Tom uses native El Pasoans as its leads – Israel Rodríguez Bertorelli as the troubled but clever Tom, whose talent for art goes unnoticed amid the drama of school and his bitter longing for his estranged father, and Julia Chávez as the confused and combative Elena, who is assailed on all sides for the stand she eventually takes.
What ensues is effectively a road movie, during which Elena gets to know and deepen her love for her “challenging” son, while staying ahead of the authorities.
Plá, whose previous film A Monster with a Thousand Heads saw a woman take action against a health insurance company, is on a related path, with a story that reflects a disturbing trend in our pharma-first culture.
“The fact that we are parents was the single overwhelming motivator in our making this film,” Plá says of his collaboration with wife Santullo on The Other Tom. “It’s nearly impossible these days to remain oblivious as a parent to the myriad of mental disorders and pathologies our children are diagnosed with, based entirely on behavior.
“It has become normal to create syndromes for behaviors and then develop drugs to ‘treat’ them. Increasingly, overworked teachers demand that their students be put on psychiatric drugs to quell disruption. And more and more doctors oblige, prescribing them like candy.
“But parents also, out of ignorance or convenience or sheer desperation, may find themselves surrendering to this mindset and medicating their children. This generation carries our hopes, and with this film, we hope to open eyes to a more human approach to helping them to adulthood.”
Pla’s first feature film, The Zone (2007), was selected at Giornata degli Autori where it was recognized with the de Leone del Futuro for Best First Film and received the Fipresci Award at Toronto. Plá’s last film, A Monster with a Thousand Heads, written by Santullo was the opening film in Orizzonti (Horizons) Competition at Venice Film Festival in 2015 and went on to win awards at film festivals in Warsaw, Morelia, Istanbul, Havana, and Biarritz.
The Other Tom is Plá’s third appearance in Venice and his second in TIFF.
About The Crew
The Other Tom is a Buenaventura Cine and BHD Films production, produced by Rodrigo Plá, Laura Santullo, Alejandro de Icaza, and Gabriela Maldonado. Paul Hudson of Outsider Pictures has World Sales Rights.
Written, Produced & Directed by Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo.