Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima Premieres This Weekend


The very first book by a Latino author that I read was in a high school multicultural lit class. Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima opened my eyes and blew me away. I devoured that book like a starving animal because after having attended predominantly-white schools my whole life, I was shocked to find a story that reflected even a glimpse of my own culturally-infused childhood. I had always spent my days in private school, but my evenings, weekends, and summers were full of family, culture, and food. But not long after my 'Buelita died when I was 12, we moved away from her home where my mother and I had lived, to a new city and a new school where Spanish, cultural gatherings and traditions disappeared.

So reading Bless Me, Ultima was an eye-opening experience for me. I suddenly found a piece of the world that was my childhood. Ultima herself reminded me so much of my 'Buelita. I don't know if she was a curandera, but I do remember strangers coming to our door to ask for una bendición, or for my 'Buelita to take away the susto their child had experienced. I remember moments sitting in a chair while my 'Buelita prayed to Jesus over me, swiping her hands across me. I remember cracked eggs in cups of water, feathers in a cup high on a shelf, and an abundant garden with so many different plants. But mostly, I remember how much she loved me and how much I loved her back.

When I read Bless Me, Ultima a little piece of my heart cracked and ever since then, the book has remained one of my favorite works of literature. So when I read that it was being made into a movie - AY! I was overjoyed, yet scared that it would be changed or that I would be disappointed.

I had the opportunity to watch it this week. And as I watched from my couch, I was so moved by not only the story line, but by the actors. The Bless Me, Ultima movie is a strong reflection of the issues that often affect Latino families: religion, family, parental expectations, the land, and so on.

Luke Ganalon is the young actor who does an OUTSTANDING job of playing the role of Antonio Marez, a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II. His father is a farmer who is waiting for his older sons to return from the war to help him move the family to California, only to be disappointed when they come back and decide to go to Santa Fe to be on their own and look for work. During all this, a curandera named Ultima (played by the oh-so elegant Miriam Colon) comes to live with Antonio's family. The two of them immediately find a friendship that leads to Ultima teaching Antonio about the land, the different plants that grow on it, and their medicinal properties. The story moves on from there and is filled with challenges that not only Antonio and Ultima struggle to meet, but ones the entire community must face.

Bless Me, Ultima premieres tomorrow, Friday, February 22nd, in select cities across the U.S. To find out if it is playing near you, visit their official website.

If you have the chance to go and see this movie, you should. Grab your husband, your mejor amiga, or your comadres and head to the theater. But please note that this is NOT a movie for young children as there is some language and adult content. Older kids in high school would really benefit from seeing it, though, as I think it is important for them to see our stories in film. Even if you are not of Mexican descent, I think you will certainly find characters and other aspects to which you can relate. I would love to see this movie be one of many more that reflect the diversity of our Latino culture.

The movie is not only a wonderful tribute to the book, but is beautiful and masterfully acted as well. Take a look...

Official Trailer of Bless Me, Ultima from Arenas Group on Vimeo.

Disclosure: I received a screener of the movie to review. All opinions expressed above are strictly my own.


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