Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Blesss Me, Ultima" with Miriam Colon (2012)

This film is like a poem. In fluent and ethereal ways the story unfolds about a boy, his grandmother and a bond that exists between them. The story takes place during the middle of World War Two in New Mexico.

A woman comes to live with Antonio’s family; the reason is never really clear why. It is known to the viewer that she delivered all of Antonio’s brothers and sisters. She has a reputation as a “curandera”; or a type of healer; and the boy is immediately drawn to her mystique. Adding to that aura is the way others react to her. They seem to want to keep her distant, which puzzles Antonio.

The boy and the woman take walks together and she teaches him all that she knows about the plants which cure; as well as the ones which will hurt. As they become closer he begins to understand that she is truly at one with nature. Indeed, nature is her God. She speaks with the trees and the rivers, passing that understanding to Antonio.

When a man in the village inadvertently stumble upon a coven of young women holding a blood sacrifice in the woods, he feels he has been cursed, and so takes to bed, seeming possessed and ready to die. No doctor; or Priest; has been able to cure him. This simple woman, who is usually reviled as a witch, is called upon to rid his body of the poison within; be it real or imagined. She takes Antonio with her only after he tells her he is not ashamed to be with her.

What follows will alter Antonio’s life and perceptions of those around him. And as time passes and the old woman gets ready to pass on, she reveals the biggest secret of all to Antonio; the secret of who we are and how we are connected to the world in which we live.

Fluently directed and well written, this film is carefully paced and will leave you thinking about life; and death; just in a different way.

This film is from a contemporary classic novel first released in 1972. It has won many awards for literature and is emblematic of the Chicano struggle for identity in a multicultural society. For more about the book, see Wikipedia at;

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