Friday, February 22, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima - the Movie

Today is the national release date for the much-anticipated movie of Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya's masterpiece. The movie has already been previewed in several places, and many of the reviews are excellent. To commemorate the movie's general release, I present a guest review done exclusively for La Bloga; a few sentences from other reviews; a re-post of a message from Mr. Anaya about the movie; and information about Denver venues for the movie. You can find out more about this movie on the movie's website:, and also on the movie's Facebook page.

Guest Review of Bless Me, Ultima
Michael Ramos

Luke Ganalon and Miriam Colón

Let me say this right up front, I enjoyed the movie.

The filmmakers succeeded in re-creating Rudolfo Anaya's great coming-of-age story filled with drama, mystery, violence, family - but mostly it's a story about a boy who is a witness to and a participant in powerful change and transition.

I admired the interaction between Antonio (played by young actor Luke Ganalon) and the curandera, La Grande (played by veteran actress Miriam Colon). They propelled the movie forward with a strong chemistry born not only out of the family bond but also of something more mysterious and spiritual. The story moves quickly with humor, tragedy, and Antonio's entrance into a dark and disturbing world of witchcraft and violence, healing powers and the imparting of La Grande's earthy wisdom. Alfred Molina's narration provides just the right touch of maturity that helps the viewer to an understanding of the storytelling.

The film's visual style is somewhat muted and I wanted a more dramatic flair to some of the scenes, but for the most part the cinematography worked for the time and place of the story. Overall, Bless Me, Ultima is a moving, layered story that reveals the Mexican-American culture of a time that has long since passed but still resonates today. This culture, this life, as seen in the story, serves as a powerful and pervasive character of its own. The traditions, the church, farming, family bonds and loyalties, and most of all, the old ways of healing and being connected to the earth are all represented and given their due. It's a movie well done and hopefully there will be more from Anaya's rich collection of stories.

I definitely recommend this movie for many reasons but especially to support and applaud good film making.

Michael Ramos

Michael Ramos
Born in Florence, Colorado a long, long time ago. Currently residing in Mesa, Arizona. In 2002, Ramos graduated manga cum laude from Arizona State University (BFA). Currently employed at Arizona Museum of Natural History - Museum Graphic & Multimedia Specialist. Ramos enjoys hanging out with the four grandkids and creating art in a variety of media.

Other reviews

"Although it was published only in 1972, Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima has achieved the iconic stature as such novels as The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird. Now comes a movie to do it justice. Carl Franklin's film is true to the tone and spirit of the book. It is patient and in no hurry. It allows a balanced eye for the people in its hero's family who tug him one way and another." Roger Ebert - four stars (highest rating)

"Bless Me, Ultima succeeds at placing audiences inside the head of its young protagonist, who is more of an observer than a doer, and yet, because he manages to be present for all the narrative's key incidents, emerges the most transformed by them. With its sometimes-skeptical view of religion and willingness to confront adult themes -- from violence to the corrupting influence of alcohol and prostitution on supporting characters -- Anaya's novel has encountered its fair share of controversy over the years. The film will no doubt face similar criticism, and yet, for audiences young and old alike, both represent valuable coming-of-age tracts that reject formula in favor of big questions." Chicago Tribune

"The film won't disappoint fans of the book, although they may regret some of the adaptation's necessary condensation and/or elimination of narrative themes and events. ... Filmed in New Mexico, Bless Me, Ultima visually captures the area's distinctive geography and light. Director of photography Paula Huidobro makes the landscape appear to be an active element in the story. Although Bless Me, Ultima can feel a bit overstuffed, it's an honest and naturalistic kids' story about growing up Mexican-American." Orlando Weekly

Anaya on the movie of Bless Me, Ultima

Back in July, 2012, I posted a message from Rudolfo Anaya about the movie of his famous book. In honor of the national release of the movie, here's the message again.

The producers brought the Bless Me, Ultima movie to Alburquerque for a private screening for my family and friends. The movie is excellent, it captures the story and characters. Every single person attending the screening gave it fantastic, positive reviews.

I am positive la gente is going to love the movie. Like my friend John Nichols said, a novel becomes a short story when turned into a movie. Don't expect to see the full novel on screen. Everyone knows that.

Carl Franklin did a great job with the story and bringing characters together as familia. Except for Miriam Colón, the cast are actors that don't have big celebrity names.  I hope they do after their roles in the movie.  Everyone did excellent work.

Carl Franklin, the director, did talk to me and asked me questions, but the screenplay is his work. I approved his work.  Some themes in the novel are left out, but the story works.
Carl Franklin

I met the director several times here at our home. I was invited to play a role in the movie and attend all shooting events, but I stayed home. My feeling was to let them do their work. I don't make movies.

I met all the actors at the cast party. They had only positive things to say of the process. Miriam Colón visited me here at our home. She is lovely, a perfect Ultima. Her face shines in the movie, so does Luke (Ganalon) who plays Antonio.

Get it to Denver, the people will love it. Will there be critics? Of course.  All art is criticized if only by responding to it. Let the people enjoy and judge. I feel confident the movie will be around in 50 years.

tu amigo  Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima in Denver

These theaters have scheduled the movie. Check with them for show times. We all know how important the opening weekend is for any movie - if you have the opportunity, take your family and friends to Bless Me, Ultima.

AMC Highlands Ranch 24 

103 W Centennial Blvd.
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

(303) 471-6911


Manuel Ramos
Desperado: A Mile High Noir (Arte Público Press - March, 2013)


Anonymous said...

Hopefully, this is one of many more that can begin to give light to the richness of our people and culture so others can better understand our sense of being.

CraftyCowgirl said...

Saw the movie this past weekend---and at a mainstream Cinemark no less! It was very true to the book. The characters were exactly as I would've imagined them to be. Looking forward to many more Latino-inspired movies in the near future.