In theatres this week from director Carl Franklin with Monarch Pictures comes a beloved novel to the screen with BLESS ME, ULTIMA.
This film tells the story of Antonio (Luke Ganalon); a young man living in New Mexico during WWII whose life is about to change with the arrival of Ultima (Miriam Colon). Most people are afraid of Ultima because of the rumors that she is a witch.
Antonio immediately makes a connection with Ultima as she shares her knowledge of the plants, animals and the earth. Teaching him the good of life doesn’t stop Ultima also from letting him know there is also evil in the world.
When Tenorio (Castulo Guerra) blames Ultima for the death of his daughter and the ruin of his family, he swears revenge. At the same time his brothers want to go their own way and Antonio’s father feels the family fall apart.
Antonio watches his family fight for their lives and believes the only one who can save them is Ultima.
FINAL WORD: Ganalon is simply beautiful in the role of Antonio. The emotion is clearly on his face and is totally believable. His love of Ultima is so touching and clearly shows a respect that is sadly lacking in our society today.
Colon as Ultima is more than I could have hoped for! This character calls for a strong woman, one who knows what is right and will fight for it. As Ultima, Colon stood for those she loved and refused to let evil in any form penetrate the lives of those around her. Colon is absolutely majestic and I hope more will take notice.
The family dynamics between the dreams of a father and the reality of his older sons returning from war is not so far from today. Sons often leave for war and return home changed and wanting more from life.
There are so many characters in this film that lend to a time where lives were changing. Rudolfo Anaya wrote the book BLESS ME, ULTIMA and was published in 1972. Reflective of Chicano life in the 1940’s, writer Anaya took six years to complete his story.
As a writer an artist, Anaya says, “What I’ve wanted to do is compose the Chicano worldview – the synthesis that shows our true mestizo identity – and clarify it for my community and myself. Writing for me is a way of knowledge, and what I find illuminates my life.”
Other cast includes: Benito Martinez as Gabriel, Dolores Heredia as Maria, Joaquin Cosio as Narcisco, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Uncle Pedro, Reko Moreno as Uncle Lucas, Luis Bordonada as Uncle Juan, Joseph A. Garcia as Uncle Mateo, Raul Castillo as Andrew, Miguel Gomez as Eugene and Diego Miro as Florence.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give BLESS ME, ULTIMA three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. For anyone who has read the book, which is amazing itself, it is nice to see the simplicity and cultural awareness come through on the screen. There aren’t any special effects and the scenes are kept simple and because of that the story comes through clearly.
This is a film, along with the book, is something I believe to be a wonderful educational tool. The book touched so many lives now the film can reach more audiences and they to can experience a culture and family that was guarded by a strong belief system and the asking of BLESS ME ULTIMA.
In the end – love comes from unexpected people.
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