A few months ago, Alejandro Montoya Marín found himself crying and drowning himself with cheap champagne in his home. It wasn’t exactly how he pictured it, but it was the moment he was waiting for. His film, “Millennium Bugs,” finally premiered on September 2 during the Dances With Films Festival.
“I was so happy with everyone’s work,” said Montoya Marín, the writer/director of the film. “They were happy tears.”
Montoya Marín told Shuffle Online that everything that could go wrong with this film during the two years of production did. The initial financier bailed a week before pre-production, so Montoya Marín started an Indiegogo fundraiser to help finance the movie. It was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, and it caused him to take anxiety medicine. They raised the funds barely, but then there were issues receiving them.
“We had a whole thing,” said Montoya Marín. “It was really weird. Some data input that was glitching or something.”
The Mexican American director and his crew prevailed, and they eventually received the funds. Montoya Marín has experience working under restraints like these as one of the filmmakers on Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew. On the show, he shot his film “Monday” in 14 days and with a $7,000 budget.
“Millennium Bugs” was set to premiere in March 2020, ready to take advantage of the South by Southwest Festival crowd that travels to Austin for a week of music, tech and film.
“At least 100 people that donated to the campaign were from Austin,” said Montoya Marín. “Let’s have a premiere party.”
He rented a theater at one of the Alamo Drafthouse locations to hold the screening, followed by a ‘90s themed reception and live music. Then COVID-19 happened, and the City of Austin cancelled the festival a week before the premiere. The good news was that Montoya Marín said they were able to get all their money back for the big event. The bad news was that he and his crew would have to wait for the public to see their film, and there was a big question mark on when that would be.
“Millennium Bugs” takes us back to 1999, a few days before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. It is the time of landline phones hindering where you talk with their attachment to a wall and sitting through the sounds of connecting the dial-up internet on an iMac G3 that came in five vibrant colors (I wanted a purple one). Y2K is looming, so there’s fear from the uncertainty of what the potential computer glitch could bring to the new millennium (the fact that there’s a movie about this 20 years later means we made it out ok). For best friends Kelly and Miguel, the start of the new year and the new millennium means a start of a new beginning. The two spend their last days of 1999 facing decisions that could lead them towards different paths away from each other.
Miguel, played by Michael Lovato, is an aspiring comedian but feels the pressure from his immigrant parents to pursue college. Meanwhile, Kelly, played by Katy Erin, struggles with the death of her parents through alcohol and drugs. After she finds out her inheritance is almost depleted, she has to decide whether to sell the last memento that connects her to her parents.
The chemistry between Lovato and Erin form a genuine friendship that reminisces of Preston and Denise from the ‘90s teen comedy “Can’t Hardly Wait.” You wonder how Miguel, a first-generation Mexican American, and Kelly, a white LGBTQ woman, met and developed their close friendship through the years, but you can also see how their opposite personalities bring out the best in each other. Michael’s carefulness keeps Kelly grounded, while Kelly’s impulsiveness fuels Michael to pursue his dream.
Montoya Marín wanted to make a movie about friendship and drew pieces of himself for the lead characters. He is also a first-generation Mexican American who was born in Laredo, Texas, and raised in Mexico. He struggled with alcoholism for several years.
“I understand the trouble and the ripples that it causes. So in both parts, they’re both me, but I wanted to give them their own voices,” said Montoya Marín.
Through those voices, his leads, who are marginalized even in today’s society, are simply allowed to be human in 1999. Being Latino or part of the LGBTQ community doesn’t solely define them in this film. They are not exploited or utilized for the sake of checking off a few diversity boxes.
During the pandemic, Montoya Marín has stayed busy with writing. He started working on films that were put on hold this summer. One is a short thriller, called “Blood Positive,” starring Scout Taylor-Compton, from Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remakes. Montoya Marín is really excited for what’s to come.
He said that it’s a shame that there wasn’t an in-person premiere for “Millennium Bugs,” because he wanted to celebrate the years of hard work and overcoming all the hurdles to complete the film.
“I want to celebrate by seeing the movie with an audience and seeing the reactions, but the most important thing is that I want people to see the movie,” said Montoya Marín.