Film Review of Bless Me Ultima: The Ultimate Movie Version of the Novel by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Deep truths argue that healers heal for good and witches bewitch for evil. The two get confused in religious minds. It happens with known healers and witches in “Bless Me, Ultima.”

Rudolfo Anaya (born October 30, 1937) does not emphasize his accomplishments. He nevertheless embodies the United States of America’s Hispanic-descended Spanish-speakers. He garners respect as:
• Chicano literature founder;
• children’s book, essay, mystery, non-fiction, novel, play, poetry, short story writer;
• English and North American literature professor.

His novel, Bless Me, Ultima, is available cinematographically thanks to:
• director, screenplay-writer Carl Franklin;
• producers Jesse Beaton (Monarch Pictures), Sarah DiLeo (Monkey Hill Films), Mark Johnson (Gran Via Productions);
• cinematographer Paula Huidobro;
• editor Alan Heim;
• musician Mark Kilian.

Released on February 22, 2013, the 106-minute film owes:
• ambience to Abiquiú, Las Vegas, Rowe, Santa Fe, New Mexico;
• distribution to Arenas Entertainment;
• premiere of September 17, 2012 to El Paso, Texas’s Plaza Theatre.

One of filming locations for "Bless Me, Ultima" was Abiquiú, a census-designated place in Rio Arriba County in north central New Mexico.

The Pedernal near Abiquiu, New Mexico
The Pedernal near Abiquiu, New Mexico

 

Bless Me, Ultima begins with the curandera (healer) Ultima (Miriam Colon) lodging with Gabriel Márez (Benito Martinez) and Maria Luna (Dolores Heredia), whose children Andrew (Raúl Castillo), Eugene (Miguel Gomez), and Leon (Alejandro Cabrera) are grown and Antonio (Luke Ganalon), Deborah (Darrian Chavez), and Theresa (Julia Flores) are school-aged. Ultima comforts Antonio over:

  • Chavez (Hemky Madera) killing World War II-traumatized Lupito (Bernardo Saracino) for killing his brother the sheriff;
  • The two dying unconfessed.

She has Antonio help cure -- for $40.00 -- Maria’s brother Lucas (Reko Moreno) of curses from witnessing saloonkeeper Tenorio Trementina’s (Castulo Guerra) three daughters with a pot of beheaded rooster blood. The curse is burned under cottonwood trees after being vomited by Lucas.

 

In "Bless Me, Ultima," Ultima teaches Antonio about natural remedies, such as making a candy from marrubio to treat colds.

Marrubio's common name in English is horehound (Marrubium vulgare), from which candy lozenges, called drops, are made.
marrubio's densely crinkled leaves; Los Gatos, west central Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California
marrubio's densely crinkled leaves; Los Gatos, west central Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California

 

Antonio encounters cruelty in:

  • Education;
  • Religion.

He and three other Hispanic cuisine-eaters flee ridicule by sandwich-chomping classmates. He gets admitted late into catechism while Father Byrnes (David Rees Snell) simultaneously subjects Florence (Diego Miró) to crucifixion-posing for:

  • Motherlessness since age 3;
  • Parenting by a grief-stricken drunk;
  • Siblinghood with one of Rosie’s (Lisa Hill) prostitutes;
  • Tardiness through Inquisition-minded peers.

Miss Maestas (Lora Martinez-Cunningham) leapfrogging him into third grade gives Antonio great joy, which gets countered by Tenorio intoxicating crowds into avenging daughter #1’s unexpected death. Ultima’s owl gouges Tenorio’s right eye. Ultima has her healer status validated by passing through doorways despite Tenorio’s crucifix-crossed, priest-blessed, threshold-lodged, witch-busting needles. Tenorio’s daughter rests in a cottonwood-woven, rooster-bloodied, sulfur-smelling witch’s coffin.

 

Ultima's owl dramatically rescues Ultima from an inflamed crowd in "Bless Me, Ultima."

short-eared owl (Asio flammeus); Boundary Bay, British Columbia and Washington state; listed as endangered in New Mexico
short-eared owl (Asio flammeus); Boundary Bay, British Columbia and Washington state; listed as endangered in New Mexico

Conclusion

 

First Communion’s oneness with God does not comfort Antonio about:

  • Andrew choosing prostitutes over preventing Tenorio’s killing Narciso (Joaquín Cosío) unconfessed;
  • Florence drowning unconfessed while treading forbidden waters under Horse’s (Kevin Ruiz) dare.

Tenorio frightens Antonio by:

  • Blaming Ultima for daughter #2’s death;
  • Calling him cabroncito, hijo de la bruja;
  • Running him off the bridge near Juan (Luis Bordonada), Lucas, Mateo (Joseph Garcia), and Pedro (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) Luna’s chili, corn, fruit farms.

But everything somewhat resolves with:

  • Tenorio perishing shooting Ultima’s owl and trying to kill Antonio;
  • Pedro regretting killing Tenorio unconfessed;
  • Ultima releasing Antonio to all beauty, goodness, strength;
  • Antonio releasing Ultima’s medicines to riverside burning and owl to hillside burial under her forked juniper tree.

 

"Bless Me, Ultima Official Trailer (2013) - Benito Martinez Movie HD" (2:32)

Uploaded January 29, 2013, by MOVIECLIPS Trailers to YouTube ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yg9kkqCul0

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.

 

Image Credits

 

One of filming locations for "Bless Me, Ultima" was Abiquiú, a census-designated place in Rio Arriba County in north central New Mexico.
The Pedernal near Abiquiu, New Mexico: Marc Davis, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abiquiu_pedernal.jpg

In "Bless Me, Ultima," Ultima teaches Antonio about natural remedies, such as making a candy from marrubio to treat colds.
Marrubio's common name in English is horehound (Marrubium vulgare), from which candy lozenges, called drops, are made.
marrubio's densely crinkled leaves; Los Gatos, west central Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California: Eugene Zelenko (EugeneZelenko), CC BY SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marrubium_vulgare3.jpg

Ultima's owl dramatically rescues Ultima from an inflamed crowd in "Bless Me, Ultima."
short-eared owl (Asio flammeus); Boundary Bay, British Columbia and Washington state; listed as endangered in New Mexico: Nigel (winnu), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/winnu/5463929626/

"Bless Me, Ultima Official Trailer (2013) - Benito Martinez Movie HD" (2:32)
Uploaded January 29, 2013, by MOVIECLIPS Trailers to YouTube ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yg9kkqCul0

"Rudolfo Anaya Interview Bless Me, Ultima Movie" (5:03)
Uploaded February 26, 2013, by thearenasgroup to YouTube ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8B-Y2SOgpU

 

Sources Consulted

 

Anaya, Rudolfo. 1972. Bless Me, Ultima. Berkeley, CA: TQS Publications.

Anaya, Rudolfo; and Franklin, Carl. 17 September 2013. Bless Me, Ultima. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

 

"Rudolfo Anaya Interview Bless Me, Ultima Movie" (5:03)

Uploaded February 26, 2013, by thearenasgroup to YouTube ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8B-Y2SOgpU
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Bless Me, Ultima ~ directed by Carl Franklin ~ Based on acclaimed author Rudolfo Anaya’s WW II novel, "Bless Me, Ultima"

A series of frightening, mysterious events occurs as a battle between good and evil rages in a village in New Mexico after Ultima, a healer (curandera), moves in with a young boy's family.
Rudolfo Anaya books: film version

Bless Me, Ultima ~ Amazon Instant Video: Buy with 1-Click®

Rudolfo Anaya books: film version

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/03/2022, DerdriuMarriner
 
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