Inspiration of 'Triumph': Movie premiere celebrates inclusivity

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Elsa Cavazos, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas
·5 min read
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May 2—Mariachis serenade the crowd of attendees Thursday at the premier for "Triumph" at the Cinemark Sunrise Mall. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — Mariachi serenaded the entrance at Cinemark Sunrise Mall as flashing lights turned on and welcomed what became a night of celebration and inclusion.

Actor Roy Frank "RJ" Mitte III premiered his film "Triumph" on Thursday afternoon alongside his family, Brownsville city officials and organizations such as Down by the Border, Roca, the Moody Clinic and Capable Kids.

In attendance also were director Brett Leonard and writer Michael D. Coffey, whose personal story inspired the film.

A guest from Mexico City was also present, Mauricio Sulaiman, President of the World Boxing Council.

At the end of the movie, a question and answer presentation was done where Mitte answered questions from guests, gave thanks and celebrated the evening.

Sulaiman presented Mitte with two gifts at the end of the premiere, one being a WBC green and gold boxing belt for his influence in the world and 10 medals to commemorate heroes of humanity. He explained those receiving a medal are meant to be people considered to contribute to their communities. Sulaiman told Mitte it would be his duty to select those he considered deserving of the medals.

"Everything I knew and researched about RJ has been multiplied today by the way he treats people and makes everyone feel special. This movie is going to motivate millions because anything can be accomplished once you work hard," he said.

Upon receiving the belt and his first medal as a gift, Mitte asked Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez to accept the medal.

"He is a remarkable mayor and I trust this man with my life and he makes such a big impact in the community," Mitte said.

"RJ doesn't realize the real inspiration in this room is him. RJ is an inspiration to everybody in Brownsville. He has told the story of Brownsville on a worldwide level and I am happy and proud to call him a friend," Mendez said.

The mayor ended his remarks by asking the crowd inside the theater to continue to be kind and stay Brownsville strong while the pandemic continues to be ongoing.

SPREADING THE MESSAGE OF INCLUSION

The film is set in the 1980s where Mitte plays a character inspired by writer Coffey, who also has cerebral palsy. His character wants to be a wrestler but everyone in his life discourages him from doing so.

Mitte made it a commitment to invite non-profit organizations in Brownsville to watch the premiere. During the Q& A portion of the night, a mother in the audience thanked him for creating films where disability is not portrayed as a disadvantage.

"You met our son last week at the Moody Clinic and we are very thankful to have been able to come and watch the movie. It is very inspirational and heartwarming, thank you," she said.

"That is why we rallied behind this film. We know how important this type of content is for the community," Mitte said.

Leonard, who is the director, said it was his first time visiting Brownsville and it was one of the most amazing moments in his life to have watched the film alongside the children from the different organizations.

"My heart has been touched by all of them and this place in an amazing way I will never forget," he said.

Leonard has known Mitte for seven years and said he was introduced to Brownsville by him. From what he heard about the city, he said he liked the idea of hosting the premiere in the city from the start.

"I thought it was fantastic. It is a great place for normal movie goers and it is RJ's hometown and he is very involved, it seemed like the perfect fit," he said.

Leonard said he was excited to watch the film with the children invited.

"We get to have these special kids come and see this movie, which is really made for them and they can realize they can be included and be inspired," Leonard said.

Leonard said he was staying for a few more days before heading back to Los Angeles. He planned on visiting SpaceX and visited the Gladys Porter Zoo before the premiere.

"It is a very special place, Brownsville," he said.

Sara Molina, 20, is a former patient from the Moody Clinic and spent 18 to 20 years at the clinic since she was six months old. Molina heard she would be invited to the premiere last week; she also has cerebral palsy.

"I am excited to watch it because a lot of cerebral palsy patients don't get to have opportunities like this. The movie is about how there are not that many limitations, we are just like everyone else," Molina said.

"I am having fun, it is an exciting experience," she said.

Another organization invited was Revival Of Cultural Arts, Roca. The organization was introduced to Mitte through the Brownsville Film Society.

"We promote the arts; our mission is to connect families to experience art, media and anything with entertainment," Hilda Ledezma, CEO, said.

The special guests from Roca were the Roca scholars, high school students who are wanting to learn more about the entertainment world, Ledezma said.

"We are very grateful to be a part of this amazing event. It is beautiful how diverse and inclusive it is, that is very much in line with our mission," she said.

Mitte said the night was going amazingly well before the movie was screened after taking photos and smiling with each guest.

"Such an outpouring of support, this is a unique film and it has a great message. So many charitable organizations are linked to it and we are very honored we are able to share it with the community here," Mitte said.

"We are happy, it is better than what could have hoped. We are having a great time," he said.