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Aristotle Torres Takes Us Down Story Ave


Over a decade ago, writer and director Aristotle Torres came across a news article about a teenager who attempted to rob a train conductor when, by the intervention of a grit-laced fairytale, he instead ended up being inspired into a more productive life path championed by his near victim. Now, set in the South Bronx, Torres has penned and directed an aesthetically rich and thematically heroic cinematic experience that is gripping, refreshing, and an extraordinary example of how to tell a relatable tale in a non-stereotypical way.


Produced by Torres along with Jamie Foxx, Lizzie Shapiro, and Datari Turner, Story Ave is about a gifted artist named Kadir, effortlessly portrayed by Asante Blackk (When They See Us). Kadir is a wayward teenage graffiti artist mourning the death of his younger brother while shouldering the heaviness of pressures from both school and family, all while maneuvering the potential perils and pitfalls of his neighborhood gangs. In less capable hands, moviegoers might initially feel as if they’ve seen this story before, but the very feel of this film is different and so is the first intriguing turn of the plot.

Kadir’s attempt at a man-up to be down and respected in the ‘hood goes awry when the MTA conductor he tries to rob, Luis, played by the legendary and prolific Luis Guzmán (Wednesday), offers Kadir a deal instead of his wallet. He’ll give him the cash, but only in exchange for the gun and Kadir’s presence over a meal.

An unexpected and refreshing friendship ensues and, thanks to the steady wisdom and tender mercy of Luis, shines a spotlight toward a different possible path on Kadir’s crossroads of life choices. Torres sat down with MovieWeb for an exclusive interview on the inspiration, artful optics, and ultimate motivation for this incredible film.


The Real-Life Inspiration for Story Ave

Aristotle Torres is the writer/director of Story Ave, and has been a music video director for such artists as J Cole, Nas, 2Chainz, and Ludacris. He has also written and directed short films that have played globally at various festivals and was awarded the “Best Cinematography” prize at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas for Story Ave (thanks to cinematographer Eric Branco).

Beyond the news story that he read over a decade ago, Torres, a native New Yorker, shared that his inspiration for Story Ave was far more personal:

My vision for Story Ave was to show what it’s like to grow up in the Bronx, what it’s like to feel alone, and what it’s like to know that you were meant for something far greater than what’s in front of you in your environment, but you don’t know where to begin.

Though the characters in the film and the worlds in which they inhabit are non-white, Torres justifiably emphasized the relate-ability of the film’s premise. “The themes in Story Ave are universal. They go beyond location, gender, or race.”

Related: The 9 Best Movies That Explore Urban Loneliness, Ranked

“As artists, as filmmakers, we all want to make the viewers question themselves and the world around them. So, for this film, we wanted to take that approach while also pulling from my personal experience and working with these amazing actors,” Torres added. “As a result, we were able to craft Story Ave into the film it became.”

The Visual Appeal of Story Ave

Brigade Publicity

Story Ave is not only an engrossing film; it is also quite picturesque to look at. Every frame invites the viewer to feel a snapshot of a poignant moment. It is more than a film. Story Ave is moving art. In response to this compliment, Torres was both gracious and informative.

He said, “First off, I’ll say thank you for the compliment. Filmmaking is a hyper-collaborative sport, and it takes a lot of brilliant people to make a ton of sacrifices to come together to create the moving images that you saw.” Specifically, Torres explained the organic planning process:

“There’s a practice within filmmaking called mise-en-scène, and it’s kind of how everything came together for us. The wardrobe department is communicating to the director about what the scene is about and where the camera is and the lensing and how far the lens is from the camera and the colors you’re seeing…”

Reflecting deeper into the creative process that aided in the film’s beauty, Torres added, “I can’t credit the visual emotion or nuance that you felt or viewers might see to one particular department, because I was fortunate to work with really smart people who were just better at what they do than I am.”

Related: Greatest Cinematographers of All Time

Torres did, however, note one person’s contribution in particular, “My main collaborator, in terms of cinematography, was my cinematographer Eric Branco. He’s a genius within his own right, and it was a blessing to be able to collaborate with him on my first film.”

The Goal of Story Ave

Luis Guzman in Story Ave
Kino Lorber

Story Ave is a superbly written and exquisitely made film, and it is also thought-stimulating. According to Torres, that is, in fact, the goal.

In any art that I make, whether it’s a moving or still image or a painting, I want the viewer to question themselves in the world around them. The only way to achieve that as an artist is with integrity and vulnerability. And those things are synonymous with being truthful.

Regarding the notably well-layered depth of the characters in Story Ave, Torres added, “Human beings are complex in their own right. So, that just felt like the truest depiction of this world and the people that inhabit it.”

When it comes to films — and this is a personal opinion — for the most part, the plot is usually the thing that matters the least,” continued Torres. “It’s about how the characters are reacting to the plot. And, for me, those are the movies that I want to watch more than once. I want to grow with the characters. I want to make mistakes with the characters and achieve victory with the characters, and then revisit the story and be able to see complexity and dichotomy in the way I viewed it the first time.”

“And,” he noted, “I think you can only achieve that level of layering and nuance if the characters are truthful and authentic.”

Mission, very much accomplished. Story Ave is now playing in select theaters from Kino Lorber.



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