Sweet Potatoes

Directed by Rommel Villa Barriga

This film is available from November 27-30, 2020. To watch or vote for this film please click on the orange “TICKETS” button below and purchase a ticket for BLOCK 4.


1951, Mexico City. After synthesizing the main component of the contraceptive pill, young scientist Luis Miramontes deals with the religious and personal consequences of his groundbreaking invention.

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Director Biography – Rommel Villa Barriga

Rommel is a director, producer, and writer born and raised in Sucre, Bolivia. His interest in telling stories started when he was a kid, creating fictional stories about his family having superpowers and fighting poverty and corruption. Rommel has a Bachelor’s Degree in Systems Engineering, a minor in Psychology, and he recently graduated from the MFA in FIlm and TV Production program at USC with an emphasis in Directing, where he directed over 8 films and wrote more than 10 scripts.

Winner of best director in several theater festivals in Bolivia, Rommel received the Lionsgate and Televisa fund for Latinx filmmakers at USC. In addition, he was awarded two directing grants: one of them being TEDDY MATE, fully funded by USC, and the second one, SWEET POTATOES, which was funded by the Sloan Foundation and won a Student Academy Award. Rommel’s next project will be a psychological film based on the experience of Latino young adults in San Fernando Valley who suffer from psychotic disorders.

Director Statement

I come from a numerous family. My father has twelve siblings, my mom has fourteen. Family reunions were great. We were more than fifty people sitting around an infinite table eating, laughing, and playing together. It all seemed fine on the surface, but what I didn’t notice were the sacrifices some of my relatives had to make in order to provide for their families. My uncle Carlos works as a teacher, carpenter, and DJ to make enough money to support his six kids, my grandmother spends at least five days, most of them sleepless nights, preparing meals for family reunions, and my mom, she left her career as a nurse in order to take care of my sister and I, all because of the taboos and lack of accessibility of birth control methods in Bolivia.

When I read the biography of Luis Miramontes, memories of my own life and my family’s struggles came back to life, which encouraged me to tell his lovely story. Sweet Potatoes is a story about everlasting and rocky relationships. Luis was a young scientist who at the early age of 26, already had a few children and struggled a lot to provide for them. That encouraged him even harder to synthesize the main component of the contraceptive pill. Something I’m fascinated by about Luis is that he was one of the few scientists who didn’t criticize faith but embraced it. From Sunday Mass and Baptisms to prayers before dinner, his good relationship with his wife got even stronger thanks to the guidance of their friend, the priest in town. However, things went south for Luis when the priest finds out he was working on the birth control pill.

As the story develops, we follow Luis’ self-destructive obsession with his job and experience the consequences of his invention which includes his detachment from his family and the disapproval from his church. I think this is a good opportunity to show the humanity behind a young Latino scientist who was not recognized by the world for his brilliant mind. Instead, he was humiliated and condemned for his actions. However, through that painful process, he learned to cherished what really matters in life, his family.

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