I like to talk about movies. Most movies in South America are American imports, so you’d think it’d be pretty easy to talk to people about movies. The trick is that American imports rarely have the same name in Spanish as they do in English, so I can’t just say, “Have you seen Die Hard?” Instead I end up in a little guessing game where I feel like I’m talking to my parents. “Remember? It’s with Bruce Willis? And terrorists are trying to kill him? And there’s a part where he has to walk barefoot on broken glass?” And they say “Oh! You mean Duro de Matar [Hard to Kill]!” (“they” in this case being South Americans, not my parents, in case that was unclear)
When I was in Lima, one of my first conversations with my friend Ingrid was a discussion of our favorite movies. She said her favorite movie was an American movie called Amor Ciego [Blind Love]. I couldn’t figure out what this would be so I asked her who was in it. She didn’t know the actors’ names, so she started describing the plot. “There’s a man who really likes pretty women and he gets trapped in an elevator-”
“Wait!” I interrupted her.
“Your favorite movie ever is Shallow Hal?” She was really confused why I was laughing so much. I told her that it’s a decent enough movie, but I’ve never heard anyone say it’s even close to their favorite. (Sidenote: To make up for teasing my parents earlier, I’ll point out that when I told my mom this story, she said the title of the movie as soon as I got to the the word “women.”)
I’ve noticed the titles in Spanish tend to be much more literal than the titles in English. For example, the third movie in the beloved Big Momma’s House series came out in the US, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, but in Spanish it’s called Mi Abuela es un Peligro 3 [Mi Grandmother is a Danger 3]. The new Adam Sandler movie, Just Go With It in South America is called Una Esposa de Mentira [A Wife of a Lie].
One of my favorites movie title translations is the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman movie, No Strings Attached. In Spanish, it’s called Amigos con Derechos which is how South Americans say “friends with benefits.” Literally, it means “friends with rights,” which I think is hilarious because whenever I hear the expression I imagine someone taking his hookup buddy to court if she violates his “right” to make out with her.
I got even more excited when I saw that there’s a Justin Timberlake movie coming out in the summer called Friends with Benefits. As soon as I saw that, I thought, “Uh oh, South America! What are you going to do now? You already used up your very on-the-nose title for this movie.” It turns out that this movie will be called Amigos con Derechos a Roce, which means “Friends with Rights to Touch.” At least I think this is the translation. My pocket dictionary doesn’t have “a roce” and when I look it up on GoogleTranslate, it says “to friction.” I’ve asked people in Buenos Aires and they always respond by vigorously rubbing my arm, so I’m assuming it’s “to touch” or “to rub.” Pro tip: If you like having your arm rubbed, ask someone in Argentina what the translation of “a roce” is.