Un paso pa’lante, dos pasos pa’tras. Just when it seemed Puerto Rico’s young film industry was hitting an important milestone with two local features playing simultaneously in island theaters, everything has come crashing down amidst a rather spicy plagiarism scandal. As of early this year, director Eduardo “Transfor” Ortiz had secured his place in the island’s cinematic history books for directing Borinquén’s biggest-ever box office success, Los Domirriqueños, but the veteran director was clearly not content stopping there. While Los Domirriqueños was still racking up the box office receipts across the island, Ortiz’s latest commercial comedy Vasos de papel hit local theaters this past February 18.
At first all seemed to be going well, and Transfor Ortiz was poised to be the face of Puerto Rico’s nascent cinematic boom. That is, until someone dug up a rather obscure 1985 romantic comedy entitled Secret Admirer and found that Ortiz had shamelessly ripped off the film’s structure, dialogue, and even the shots used for each scene. While local critics have gone so far as to claim that 95% of the film is directly ripped off from Secret Admirer, we cannot confirm the extent of the similarities.
However, island filmgoers have vehemently denounced Ortiz’s dirty play, and the film’s young star, Natalia Lugo, has publicly expressed her disappointment and renounced any association with the feature. To date, Secret Admirer‘s aging screenwriters have apparently taken no legal action, but Ortiz has begrudgingly accepted some vague similarities and removed the film from theaters — allegedly to “protect” the crew and actors who were unfairly caught up in the controversy.
Indeed, both films seem to revolve around an anonymous love letter that wreaks romantic havoc as it moves through several hands causing confusion and misunderstanding along the way. Then there are trailers. Naturally Vasos de papel‘s paltry $300,000 budget can’t hold up in quality to MGM/Orion Pictures’ multimillion dollar ’80s comedy, but the tone, setting, and even a recurring joke about a jealous father with a 9mm are a little too close for comfort. Vasos de papel‘s Facebook page is currently offline amidst the controversy, but something tells us this story isn’t quite over yet.