Bless-Me-Ultima

Many people have seen coming of age stories; they often begin with one or a few young characters trying to on cover the negative aspects about life. They often incorporate topics such as death, self discovery, and challenging society’s norms. A couple of popular coming of age stories are Stand By Me, Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club. Bless Me Ultima, is a coming of age story based on a controversial novel written by  Rudolfo Anaya about a young boy named Antonio (Luke Ganalon) whom begins to question his own faith and with the help of Ultima (Miriam Colon), a village healer he begins to discover evil’s darkest secrets. The film takes place in New Mexico during World War II. Recently, three of the film’s actors (Luke Ganalon, Benito Martinez and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) along with its Producer, the legendary, Mark Johnson whom has a variety of prestigious films credited to his named including: Rainman, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Rookie sat down for a round table interview to discuss the  film, Bless Me Ultima.

Were you all of you familiar with the book before you began shooting the film?

Benito Martinez: “I was; being from New Mexico when a local artist does well everyone knows. I read the book three different times and during three different stages of my life. So each time it had different meaning; as a child I thought it was amazing, I also read it again in college and I re-read it before filming this movie. As a child it was humorous, as an adult it was like what do you believe in as far as religious beliefs, as a parent it was about letting go and letting your child believe in what they wanted to believe.

Luke Ganalon: “My parents read the book before me and then I read it. It is amazing; the writers of the movie did a great job at matching the book.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo: “I did not know of the book before I auditioned; I am from Mexico and unfortunately it is not popular there. I did read it a day before I auditioned; it is such a powerful story. It is a universal story; every culture in the world has experienced a young boy like Antonio”.

Luke, How do you describe your overall experience working on this film?

Luke Ganalon: “The cast and crew made me really comfortable; it was easy because they gave me my sides two days before we were going to shoot. It was a fun experience”.

Who do you think is the ideal demographic this film is catering to?

Benito Martinez: “The issues this film deals with are relatable to people from all different backgrounds. I think grandmothers are going to love this film because it incorporates the values of traditions; I think children are going to love it because they see how the kids are behaving in the film. The adults will be able to enjoy the relationships in the film.

Luke Ganalon: “Anyone can relate to this film it deals with family, friends and religion”.

Mark, How are you marketing this film, what is your strategy?

Mark Johnson: “We first screened the film in Santa Fe, New Mexico; it did very audiences loved it. We decided to see how it did the second week and the number of audiences increased. We than screened it in Alberque and it did exceptionally well, that is when we said okay, let’s go bigger with is. The most important thing to the Executive Producer is getting as many people to see this film; the book is very important to her. We are not just selling this film to a Hispanic audience it is being aimed at a broad demographic; we want this film to be available to students throughout the country. I screened this film at The University of Virginia, where I graduated college and the students loved it”.

Why was the book considered controversial?

Mark Johnson: “The book was considered highly controversial because it was considered very anti-Catholic and anti-Christian”.

Benito Martinez: “Throughout history it was banned so many different times. If you talk about the church and a different spirituality of some sort some people tie that into “devil worshipping”.

Bless Me Ultima will be released in theaters nationwide on February 22, 2013.