"The Other Tom", an intimate portrait in Venice of children on psychotropic drugs

Venice (Italy), Sep 9 (EFE) .- Can a child be classified as normal? Under what premises? Uruguayans Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo open this debate in their film "El otro Tom", an intimate portrait of minors under psychiatric treatment, children of Latinos in the United States, with whom they compete in Venice.

The couple, who concur with this feature film in the Horizons section, dedicated to the new avant-gardes, explains to Efe that their film arose from their own interest as parents of two adolescents on the subject of childhood and behavior problems.

"Somehow we began to realize or learn of the fact that there are many children who are medicated, who take psychiatric medication," explains the director in Venice.

The Mexican-American co-production "El otro Tom", shot in El Paso, Texas, with almost no professional actors, tells the story of Elena (Julia Chávez), a single Latino mother who depends on social services, and her son Tom ( Israel Rodriguez Bertorelli) with behavior problems.

The little boy is immediately labeled at school as a "problem child", an attitude that is aggravated by the absence of a father figure, and after diagnosing him with an attention deficit and hyperactivity they begin to administer psychotropic drugs.

Tom's behavior changes suddenly, until a strange episode, which almost cost him his life, causes the mother to begin to wonder about the possible side effects of the therapy.

Convinced that it is harming her, Elena decides to stop giving her son the medicine, which starts a battle with an impassive American social services, who threaten to take him away.

The film, the filmmakers explain, is the result of a long research work on the different psychiatric therapies for minors in various countries around the world, even in Spain, where at first they thought to shoot.

However, they decided to do it in El Paso, thus portraying the difficult living conditions of Latino immigrants.

"There is a community of its own in the south of the United States, which is the Mexican-American, who speaks 'Spanglish', who are Americans but they are not entirely on the edge ", explains Plá.

That, he stressed, contributed to "the idea that characters have no place in society."

There is also a questioning of the pharmaceutical companies and of the use and abuse of this type of drugs but Santullo comes out stating that they did not want to make a declaration of principles of all this: "We are rather interested in telling a story."

His partner explained that as they investigated, they came across reports and statistics that show that "Latino children, of Mexican descent, etc., had a high rate of psychiatric medication."

"Which makes us think that this evaluation of behavior is suddenly limited, because we do not know if there are absent parents, if they come from difficult situations on the other side," he said.

In the end, "The other Tom" has a clear objective: "It questions a bit the idea that children have to be one way or another and how certain behaviors that are still typical of childhood today are seen as pathologies ", Santullo points out.

And he wonders: "Do children have to be in a specific way? Do people have to be in a specific way? Isn't there a psychic diversity that we are not seeing and that we should be able to admit in our society?"

With this work, Uruguayan filmmakers who have lived in Mexico for years compete in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival, which will conclude next Saturday.

And they are excited and happy to return to this contest, for which they have already passed with "La Zona" (2007), a film with Maribel Verdú and Daniel Giménez Cacho with which they won the award for Best First Feature, and with " A monster with a thousand heads "(2015).

By Gonzalo Sánchez


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