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Director Cassius Corrigan talks new psychological thriller that dives into one fighter's struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder | amNewYork

Director Cassius Corrigan talks new psychological thriller that dives into one fighter’s struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Photo Credit: Galfry Puechavy

A new psychological thriller explores the struggles of a mixed martial artist who suffers from mental illness.

Huracán” follows the story of Alonso Santos, an aspiring MMA fighter that suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Santos’ DID manifests itself in an aggressive and reckless alternate personality, Huracán, and Santos must learn to grapple with himself before he can beat his opponent in the octagon.

This is the first feature-length film for director Cassius Corrigan. The Miami native born to a Cuban-Colombian family moved to Los Angeles to get his education in filmmaking at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. 

“As a kid, I loved the hustle. I was the first kid in my neighborhood with a lemonade stand, I had a car washing, a carpooling business — I enjoyed having a vision and seeing it come to fruition,” said Corrigan. “I fell in love with books, but I realized writing novels wasn’t going to be my life path because my friends didn’t read. I got a scholarship to USC and shortly after starting filmmaking. It was presented to me as both an art form and an entrepreneur journey. When it was presented in that context, that’s really when I got obsessed – allowed me to flex creative and business muscles.”

This is Corrigan’s first feature film. He found that the films he had written before “Huracán” required a higher budget than he could produce. But by leaning into the psychological thriller genre, it became more attainable to make the film.

“If I really wanted to make a movie, I would have to create a project that no one could stop me from making,” said Corrigan. “That’s why I picked the psychological thriller genre. You look at these films like ‘Whiplash’ or ‘Black Swan’ and they so creatively imparted full, engaging cinematic experience without a big budget. They used music to create tone, and other techniques to give the film momentum. I thought that if they can do that, I can do that.”

Photo Credit: Galfry Puechavy

In addition to writing and directing the film, Corrigan, who is a mixed martial artist himself, also took on the lead role as Santos.

“It was the challenge of my life. It was difficult, but for me, I rise to the occasion and love to be under pressure. It brings out the best in me,” said Corrigan. “If I wasn’t producing [Huracán], it wouldn’t get made. We struggled to find an actor to play this lead role, they needed to be a credible mental illness and trauma survivor, and that was a heavy ask of an actor. I was so scared of blowing it, I’m not a trained actor and I’d never acted before. What I knew was that at a minimum, I’d feel so much pressure every day, and it gave me some measure of confidence.”

The film features a mostly Latinx cast, including Yara Martinez (“Jane the Virgin”), Muay Thai champion Grégory Choplin, Steven Spence, and Colombian newcomer Camila Rodríguez. Martinez plays the therapist who gives Santos Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, a form of psychotherapy used to treat Dissociative Identity Disorder.

“I was interested in psychology and abnormal psychology before I became interested in MMA. There are so many complex elements that fit in this category. DID has never been authentically portrayed in film and I was interested in exploring it,” said Corrigan. “As I started to get to know my teammates, their struggle stuck out to me — how difficult it is to move from amateur to pro level, often with no pay and getting hurt, while getting locked in a literal cage with someone whose goal is to separate you from you conscious. It’s an incredible mental strain. Those two elements felt very interesting to juxtapose against each other.”

The film also features UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal, who squares off with Corrigan’s character in the octagon.

“Jorge agreed to support the film because he believed in me,” said Corrigan. “It’s a difficult subject, mental illness in the Latino community. He was appreciative of the authenticity the film had.”

Following its success at the New York Latino Film festival, “Huracán” was picked up by HBO and officially debuted on HBO and HBO Max on Sept. 11 this year, something that was a dream come true for Corrigan.

“That’s so cool for me. I was a devout watcher of ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,'” said Corrigan. “To me, HBO is the highest bar of quality, and to know ‘Huracán’ is going to be there is amazing.” 

Corrigan hopes audiences walk away from “Huracán” with a sense of realism that doesn’t always come from films of this nature.

“This is not a typical fight movie. It takes a deep dive into the complexity of mental illness with MMA while being set in real-life Miami,” said Corrigan. “The goal from the beginning was to create a film where after watching it, you say ‘I’ve seen that before.’ It’s thought-provoking, the action was visceral — we didn’t have a stunt coordinator, and it will look different than most people’s fight action sequence. I’m so pleased and proud of the team.”

For more information about “Huracán,” visit huracanthefilm.com.

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