BLESS ME, ULTIMA
New Mexico: Another Character
"Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood."
BLESS ME ULTIMA was shot on location in New Mexico in Santa Fe, Abiqui and surrounding area during an unexpectedly cold winter.
Jesse B'Franklin explains, "The film really is about the spirit of the people here in New Mexico. It's cultural. It's historical and it would be a travesty not to shoot it here, especially since there is a film business that is happening here. Rudolfo Anaya is a very well respected man in New Mexico. When you shoot a movie in the location where it really takes place, it informs your vision. By being there you pick up the essence of the place. And, in this particular story, which has a lot of spirituality and has lots of mysticism in it, you feel it."
Carl Franklin adds. "The environment is quite dramatic in terms of the dust, the dryness, the beauty, the cold, the heat. It has dramatic landscapes, vast panoramas, the population in comparison to land mass. The history here is so specific.
As the novel is set in New Mexico, Rudolfo Anaya was very pleased that is was shot there. "I would have been disappointed if it had been shot anywhere else. I think Carl and the producers wanted to capture the landscape of New Mexico: the river, the llano, the country, the churches as we have them here; perhaps getting the actors mixing with New Mexicans when they go to restaurants, or on the set, so they could get a sense for how we speak and carry ourselves. If we had been in Iowa ... Oh, God forbid," says Anaya.
DiLeo adds, "I think it was important to shoot this film in New Mexico for several reasons, from a creative stand point, it adds authenticity that I don't think we could find anywhere else. It was a period film with lots of challenges and the tax credits here made it possible for us to make this movie."
Johnson agrees, "We explored Mexico and even Argentina. But because there were tax credits it became clear to us when a collective light bulb went off and we asked ourselves 'how can we really make this movie and not do it in New Mexico?'"
For the actors, shooting in New Mexico gave them a different perspective which helped in building their characters.
Castulo Guerra explains, "Santa Fe is a very powerful place. A lot of people say they can't sleep in Santa Fe. The energies are too strong. Some people meditate to make peace with the energies. Rather than being farfetched, this only confirms what Ultima is talking about. You have to find balance and New Mexico is a splendid place to do it. There are forces at work here. There are plants. There are minerals. There are certain plants and trees here. It is not a joke. Anaya didn't make this up. You stay here awhile and you will find it. You are drawn to the water, how it glistens when the light hits it. I can say New Mexico is a magical place and is the perfect background for a perfectly magical story."
But all those involved knew this production was something special, something significant.
Producer Mark Johnson sums it up, "If you are in New Mexico and you tell someone about Bless Me, Ultima, they know it immediately. If you go to Los Angeles, you are not going to find an executive that knows the book. At the same time, there is something about this not entirely discovered gem. I like the idea that we are going to unveil this movie called BLESS ME, ULTIMA that nobody knows anything about and I think, if we've done our job right we are really going to knock their socks off everyone."
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