“Bless Me, Ultima” is going national.
After a successful run in New Mexico and El Paso, the low-budget independent film is slated for a limited nationwide release beginning today.
Arenas Entertainment Founder and CEO Santiago Pozo announced that the film had an extremely successful box office run in regional release earlier this year, and the company decided to market it to other areas.
The film opened on Oct. 19 in five New Mexico theaters, a day after premiering at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. To date, the film has grossed more than $325,000 in New Mexico and averaged $16,000-plus per screen on its opening weekend, making it the No. 1 film in the region that weekend.
Similarly, the film was successful in its El Paso release on Sept. 19, averaging $10,000-plus per screen on its opening weekend and grossing more than $100,000 since its Sept. 21 debut in that city.
The film will open in seven states that include major markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Las Vegas, Nev., Chicago, Miami, Dallas and San Antonio.
“Bless Me, Ultima,” is based on the provocative award-winning novel by celebrated New Mexican author, Rudolfo Anaya. It is a turbulent coming-of-age story about a young boy, Antonio, played by Luke Ganalon, growing up in New Mexico during World War II. When a mysterious curandera (healer) named Ultima played by Miriam Colon comes to live with his family, she teaches him about the power of the spiritual world.
As their relationship grows, Antonio begins to question his strict upbringing by his parents, played by Dolores Heredia and Albuquerque-native Benito Martinez. Through a series of mysterious and at times terrifying events, Antonio must grapple with questions about the nature of divinity and his own destiny.
“We firmly believe that this wonderful movie, which is based on a book that is celebrated in the American Southwest, can be embraced by the entire country,” said producer Mark Johnson. “It’s a book that many of us, and especially those of us that come from the East Coast, have never heard of. It’s a wonderful story of spiritual discovery about a young man’s life in the ’40s in New Mexico. I think it’s a very smart movie.”
It was directed by Carl Franklin at Greer Garson Studios on the campus of Santa Fe University of Art & Design in 2010.
It was filmed at Ruby Ranch in Las Vegas, N.M., Pecos River Ranch in Rowe, Abiquíu, Garson Studios and the old Manderfield School in Santa Fe and the production employed 150 New Mexicans during its nearly three-month shooting schedule.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal