Stephanie Beatriz is best known for her role on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a likably goofy sitcom wherein most problems are introduced and resolved in the space of a half-hour episode. Fans of her TV work may be surprised to encounter her in a film world where the challenges are more ambiguous and not every mess can be cleaned up, but that’s what they’re in for with The Light of the Moon, the new film by Jessica Thompson. Beatriz stars as Bonnie, a professional woman who is brutally raped and must navigate the aftermath at work, in her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, with her family, and with herself.
The film is uncompromising in the best sense. “Survivor stories, victim stories, however you want to define it, we’ve seen them before,” Beatriz says. “A lot of times we see them through the lens of the judicial system. Oftentimes, unfortunately, we see rape scenes that are really highly sexualized. I am not myself a survivor of sexual assault, but I have friends who are. I wanted to make sure that any story I was involved in was respectful of their lives and their actual truth.”
Beatriz knows firsthand what it’s like not to feel accurately represented in TV and film. She grew up in Webster, outside Houston, the daughter of immigrants. Her father, who had been a chemical engineer in South America, drove buses and 18-wheeler trucks, and her mother worked in hospitality. Though she acted in high school, the thought of making a career in Hollywood seemed inconceivable to Beatriz back then. “I didn’t know that it was really even an option,” she says. “I think Eva Longoria was one of the first Latinas that I really saw on prime-time television.”
The film merits a strong trigger warning, but it’s likely to be a powerful viewing experience, both for those already intimately familiar with such stories and for those not habitually conscious of the prevalence of rape in the lives of the people around them. “Some of this stuff, you just don’t have the opportunity to talk about with people,” Beatriz says. “Then something like this film comes along, and you can start having the conversation. I think that’s what art is supposed to do, to make us sort of step back and say something about it to the other humans in the room, sharing the world with us.”
Queen of Katwe is the biopic of a Ugandan chess prodigy and traces her journey from the Kampala slum of Katwe, where she is forced to abandon her formal schooling at the age of nine, to the upper echelons of the chess world after she develops an interest in the game at a youth-outreach program. Her mother worries that her daughter’s dreams of becoming a chess champion are a frivolous distraction from real life.
She enters the toughest competition she has ever been a part of and she wins the decisive game, but she has no idea what it means.
Nobody has told her what’s at stake, so she just plays, like she always does. She has no idea she has qualified to compete at the Olympiad. No idea what the Olympiad is. No idea that her qualifying means that in a few months she will fly to the city of Khanty-Mansiysk in remote central Russia. No idea where Russia even is. When she learns all of this, she asks only one question: “Is it cold there?”
Produced as a joint venture between Disney and ESPN Films, Queen of Katwe is the true story of Mutesi and her indomitable spirit.
Doors open at 6pm at Alamo Drafthouse located at 618 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, Texas 78216. Proof of Purchase required.