While quarantined during the first days of the pandemic, theatre alumnus Yecid Benavides Jr '05 and his family wanted to help people stay home and alleviate their cabin fever. They decided to release their hit film, Engaño a Primera Vista, for free online.
The film went viral, reaching more than 2 million views in a little over a month.
“In Bolivia, our home country, people weren’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough,” Benavides says. “We wanted to give them a reason to stay home and watch something to lift their spirits. We released it with no expectations, but we hit over 30,000 views in a day and it kept skyrocketing. We hit our first million views in 2 weeks.”
This is the second time the film proved to be a hit. When the film first reached theatres in Bolivia in 2016, it was an instant success, becoming their country’s highest-grossing film of the last 10 years and making Benavides and his brother, Johanan, overnight sensations.
The brothers wrote, directed and starred in the film together. The film was also produced by their father, Yecid Benavides Sr., making it truly a family affair.
“It went like wildfire. People were flocking to the theatres for months,” Benavides says.
Engaño a Primera Vista is a geeky romantic comedy about two broke nerdy brothers who desperately want a brand new, souped-up MacBook Pro. A few mall-food-court-bullies decide to have a little fun, promising to buy them the laptop of their dreams if they can get two sexy, out of their league women to kiss them by Friday. The brothers, who’ve never had girlfriends, determine to (awkwardly) win their prize.
What makes the film unique, and a bit of a surprise for international audiences, is the setting.
“When most people think of Bolivia, they think of small villages in the mountains. But we’re more than that. We’ve got modern cities. We’ve got malls. We’ve got technology. We’ve got nerds and geeks,” Benavides says.
Engaño a Primera Vista is available for streaming on YouTube for a limited time. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles and has a running time of 110 minutes.