The title card for Aaron Agrasanchez‘s latest begins with an infamous campaign slogan only for the “America” part to get crossed out and be replaced by “Love.” As a title for a cross-cultural romantic drama that’s framed by an immigration interview, Make Love Great Again is a ballsy move. But rather than bludgeon you with political agitprop, Agrasanchez’s movie opts instead to tell the love story of Chris (David Haack) and Natalie (Alina Robert) as they get grilled by USCIS agents intent on proving their marriage is a fraud.
Speaking after a packed screening at the Miami Film Festival, the filmmakers behind Make Love Great Again talked at length about the way the current immigration debate ended up lending the project a much more urgent tone than they’d anticipated. Agrasanchez was initially drawn to the idea of telling a story about what happens in those interviews and how immigration agents can sometimes be needlessly cruel with those seeking green cards via marriage. “I couldn’t stop reading the pages,” he told the crowd.” I would pause and think, ‘Man, this is the film I want to make.’ This was all before the election and then everything just happened the way it happened.”
The heated immigration rhetoric that characters the 2016 election results ended up affecting the script, which was always envisioned to take place in the very near future. But as screenwriter Shane Kinsler admitted, there were things they thought would be too over the top to include (for reference, Chris Mulkey’s Agent Riley gets the couple to talk at length about their sex life and all but threatens to deport Natalie on a whim). And so, they dialed it back lest it would come off as too unbelievable. “Little did we know that, two years later,” he said “the reality is even worse than what we’d put in the script. I just find that bizarre.”
Indeed, the pro-immigration argument that’s embedded in this heartwarming story of a young couple that also, hilariously, involves a British ex-wife and a Mexican would-be-lover who calls himself “The Tilapia King,” is undeniable. It’s why Haack hopes more audiences get to see the film. “I think there’s a lightheartedness to a very very serious and real thing that people are going through. And I don’t think anyone knew at the time we were shooting that it was going to be as real as it is today.”
Make Love Great Again screened as part of the 2018 Miami Film Festival.