“Too much sanity may be madness – and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be.”
-Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
When I was a little kid in the mid-90s, my family of five lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Mesquite, Texas. It might not sound like the ideal living situation for a six-year-old boy trying to come into his own with two sisters and busy parents in a small space. But, I loved it because living there meant that I was neighbors with a real knight! At least, he was a real knight to me. Our neighbor, Cesar, worked at the Medieval Times dinner theater in Dallas. As a young boy obsessed with King Arthur and Don Quixote, it was awesome to have The Green Knight as a neighbor. He would always give my family extra tickets to see him fight against whatever villain was trying to take over the realm! And most of the time, he would win.
Cesar lived with his girlfriend, Cherrelle. Cesar and Cherrelle made an interesting pair: a Medieval Times Knight and an Exotic Dancer. As a filmmaker, I’ve always wanted to use this couple as a basis for characters in a movie, and I wanted their imagined story to feel as complex, interesting, and human as Cesar and Cherrelle were. This is that story: How a grown man’s fantasy job becomes escapism fuel. Toxic machismo is disguised as chivalry. A Medieval Times Knight sees his girlfriend, an
exotic dancer, as a woman he needs to protect because of his own pride and possessiveness. Instead of living in the here and now, he is always in his head, imagining a future with her that will never be.
Tepache takes place in 1994 and is a short film about a young Mexican immigrant, Gael, who plays the role of the green knight in a nightly medieval dinner theater show. When he learns that his girlfriend, Noel, plans to break up with him, toxic machismo masks as delusional chivalry, and he decides to force his way into the gentlemen’s club where Noel works in an attempt to “save” her. Gael is defeated and Noel is resolute in her decision. Gael’s dramatic gesture only affirms for Noel what she wishes Gael could see for himself: he’s missing out on their life together because he can’t stop imagining what “could be.”