Movie with a purpose: ‘Triumph’ aims to bring awareness to local nonprofits

Actor Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III, best known for his role as Walt Jr. in the AMC series “Breaking Bad”, is bringing Hollywood to the Rio Grande Valley this week.

Mitte, a resident of Brownsville for more than a year now, will hold a red carpet premier for his latest film “Triumph” Thursday afternoon at the Cinemark in Brownsville, with several local nonprofits invited to attend.

In the movie, Mitte plays a character that has grown up with cerebral palsy and was written with Mitte in mind by Michael D. Coffey. Both Mitte and Coffey have cerebral palsy.

“He wrote this story about being with the times and the restrictions of people with disabilities in the 80s. There was discouragement to wrestle, and this movie is about going for his dream,” Mitte said.

Mitte’s character is in his last year of high school and about to go to college. His dream is to wrestle, but everyone in his life is against it. The overall message of the movie, according to Mitte, is to go against the odds and fight for one’s life dream.

“Through meeting people and stepping out of his comfort zone, he was able to find his courage and persevere through a time where people were not supportive. I don’t think people realize how unsupportive supportive people can be sometimes,” Mitte said.

“We will go through phases where there’s 100 percent support, but really no one believes in you. Finding self-belief and self-worth and putting yourself forward, that is where you achieve greatness,” he said.

The international nonprofit organization United Cerebral Palsy will receive percentages on residual sales of the film in perpetuity, according to Mitte. He said it is something that has never been done before.

“The charitable organization will always get money as long as this movie is distributed,” he said.

Mitte described it as a unique film, which he has been working on for over five years.

He said a message can be properly represented through movies and storytelling.

“I don’t know if not enough of these narratives have been told, but there has not been the proper catalyst. A lot of times they are used as inspiration points but not being used to uplift or raise awareness,” he said.

“They make these movies to go, ‘Awww’, not to go, ‘Hey, that was a great movie. Oh my god!’” he said.

Mitte said there are a lot of mediums and projects out there that have inclusion as a message but are not being placed in front of the right people to properly represent inclusivity.

“This needs to be looked at as a great movie that happens to have people with disabilities that happens to be linked to a charity. The overall goal is for diversity, and a lot of times, it’s diversity first, project second,” he said.

“We need project first but have the diversity that makes it a better project and resonates with individuals that are diverse. There are no two people on Earth the same. That representation on film and television is crucial,” Mitte said.

He stressed the importance of creating these types of films because they bring awareness in different capacities.

“As an audience, I like to see new things that are going to challenge my perspective and my mentality,” he said.

“Raise questions in ways that either you want more answers or you feel fulfilled enough where you got the answer,” Mitte said.

He talked about the cliché disability trope and how it can divert the awareness of inclusion to a negative narrative.

“If you see people that represent you and they are always sick and dying or they are never the lead, that is going to make me think that is all I can be,” he said.

“The importance of this is so much more. It is about taking the reins and not letting the lack of opportunity discourage you. And just trying to create more opportunities and your own goals and following through,” Mitte said.

Movie Premiere

The movie will have two screenings at its April 29 premier in Brownsville. Organizations invited to attend are Down by the Border, Roca, the Moody Clinic and Capable Kids.

“We are focused on community outreach and invited practically everyone we know,” Mitte said.

The premiere starts at 5:30 p.m. at Cinemark in Sunrise Mall for the organizations, but a screening with tickets available for purchase will start at 7 p.m.

Mitte said the movie has an anti-bullying and diversity message that he believed were important for children with disabilities to see.

“The more they can see someone persevere, the better I believe in the future. We just wanted as many people as part of the local community to have a tie to this film,” he said.

“To be able to have access to it was the overall goal. This is something up your alley, and they were all interested and very excited,” Mitte said.

At the same time, he expressed how COVID-19 has been a hard year for people when it comes to events and getting out. The importance of the premiere is to get something exciting out there where people can go.

“Where they don’t feel like they are still stuck in their house, and I was very happy I could bring it to Brownsville,” he said.

Mitte believes there is a lot of inclusion in the RGV. From personal observation, the RGV has lots of nonprofit groups in great need, but not everyone knows of their existence.

“I hope through more community outreach and time and growth more organizations will be more willing to be fluid and work together,” he said.

“Through events like this and other outreach programs, we can make the RGV more in sync with each other and provide opportunities for people who have the need and are here. It is important to find these beacons for positive,” Mitte said.

Moody Clinic, Stellar Guest

Moody Clinic is one of the organizations invited to the premiere. It was created in 1952, and it originated because of a mother who had a child with cerebral palsy and could not find therapy services for her child.

At the beginning, the clinic only offered physical therapy, but then it added speech and occupational therapy.

It provides services to children from birth to 21 years of age who are diagnosed with any kind of development delay, disability or acquired injuries.

Year-around, the Moody Clinic accepts donations from community families, businesses and anyone who wants to support its cause.

Amanda, Placencio, 24, met Mitte on April 20 when he visited the clinic for the first time. Placencio used to be a patient at the clinic, starting when she was 15 years old. She also has cerebral palsy. Placencio said she loved her time at the clinic, and once she reached the age limit, she left but became a volunteer.

“I was working here in 2019, and I started going back to school for special ed. Being a part of the Moody Clinic opened my eyes, and it made me love the kids and the environment,” Placencio said.

Placencio said the premiere is not only fun and exciting, but a chance for patients to get out and get some normalcy.

“I think it is awesome he is considering everyone here at the Moody Clinic. Normally, big stars don’t look for places like these, and I think it is an awesome opportunity for the patients here,” she said.

Jessica Cuevas, Executive Director of the Moody Clinic, said it is rare patients get to meet someone famous. Mitte’s visit was special and created excitement for next week’s premiere, she said.

“I love the premise behind that movie. It speaks volumes to what our patients here can accomplish. There is no limit for them. With the right teachers and the right support, many of them can go so very far,” Cuevas said.

“Our ultimate goal is to help our children succeed to have the most full potential in their lives,” she said.

ecavazos@valleystar.com