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FLICKS: Bless Me Ultima

Posted on 21 February 2013 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


The National Endowment for the Arts has placed Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima on “The Big Read” list, along with titles like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

Given the brevity of the novel, the deep themes about religion, folklore and Latino Culture, it was only a matter of time that a movie would be produced. Set in New Mexico during World War II, the film opens with Antonio (Luke Ganalon) narrating the story about his childhood. He is a boy caught between his mother’s Roman Catholicism and his father’s dreams of being a cowboy

in the tradition of Mexican “vaquero.” When Grandma Ultima (Miriam Colon) moves into the house, Antonio finds an elder who can explain the complications of life.

In the Latin Culture, Ultima would be considered a “curandero;” in an Italian Culture, she would be considered a “strega;” to ignorant cultures, Ultima would be considered a “witch.” In fact, Ultima uses nature’s bounty to solve both physical and spiritual ills and mentor Antonio about good, evil, acceptance and understanding. Director Carl Franklin has created visual poetry within the narrative framework in this film. Without 3-D imagery, this motion picture features vibrant cinematography that will inspire the New Mexico tourist board.

Despite the inherit drama of Bless Me Ultima, the actors are understated and provide a truthful performance. As young Antonio, Ganalon provides the maturity often found with children found in rural settings. As Ultima, Colon captures the character’s transcendental tendencies.

Given the attention the Oscar-nominated films will see this weekend, Bless Me Ultima may get lost in a crowd of motion pictures with big marketing budget; this is sad. Like most great literature dealing with a child’s “coming- of-age” (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird), this film features fine family entertainment.

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