HAMMOND | Some stories are not easily told.
One of them is the story of Mexico’s identity and spiritual transformation after Hernán Cortés’ Spanish Conquest, in 1520. But, Salvador Carrasco, director of “La Otra Conquista” ( The Other Conquest), has told it and told it well.
Fourteen years after its release in Mexico in 1999, “La Otra Conquista,” will make its Midwest premiere at the Towle Theater in Hammond at 5 p.m. on April 26. To celebrate the film’s debut east of the Colorado River, Director Carrasco will be at the Towle to introduce his award-winning production.
The historical drama, a blending of both factual accounts and fictional characters, begins with the bloody massacre of the Aztecs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). After Topiltzin (Damián Delgado), the illegitimate son of Moctezuma, crawls out from underneath a dead body, he finds himself to be the lone survivor of the slaughter. Without his family and the rest of his people, Topiltzin struggles to preserve his faith and culture amid the creation of the Spanish Empire.
The cultural clash comes to a head when Topiltzin is captured and presented to Cortés, who has taken his half-sister, Tecuichpo (Elpidia Carrillo), as his mistress and translator. Though she is able to save Topiltzin from execution, he endures an agonizing forced conversion ritual, after which he is given the name Tomás and placed under the tutelage of a Friar. Topiltzin’s identity is changed superficially, but he remains reluctant to surrender his faith. As the years pass by, Tomás and the Friar build a deep connection, allowing them to reconcile the faith and culture of the other.
Steven Lombardo, director of the International Movie Series at Purdue Calumet, explained that the film’s message of tolerance is critical, especially when it comes to understanding cultural identities.
“Here in our society, when we think of people of different ethnic backgrounds, we may not be aware of the complexities of their identities.”
At the time of its release in Mexico, the film garnered instant success and popularity, breaking box-office records for the biggest opening weekend. The film, which is in Spanish with English subtitles, enjoyed similar acclaim when it premiered in 74 theaters across Los Angeles in 2000. Responses to the film in the Southwest, the only region of the country where it has been released, have been overwhelmingly positive, considering the film was shot sporadically over a seven year period with a tight $3.2 million budget.
“La Otra Conquista” is the first collaboration between Purdue University Calumet and the Towle Theatre. Lombardo said that he hopes this is the beginning of a relationship that benefits both the community and the university.
The film also concludes a month-long photo exhibit, “In the Shadow of Cortés,” at the Purdue Calumet Library that showcases the people, artifacts and landmarks located along the route from Veracruz to Tenochtitlan that Cortés traveled. The exhibit consists of photos taken by “National Geographic” photographer and Indiana University continuing lecturer Steve Raymer and ethnographic interviews conducted by Mexican historian and Indiana University professor Kathleen Myers, a former student of Purdue Calumet Spanish professor Geoffrey Barrow. Myers will also be at the film premiere to speak about the exhibit, which will remain open until April 30.
The program begins at 5 pm with hors d’oevres and drinks. PUC Chancellor Thomas Keon will talk about the University’s partnership with the City of Hammond and the Towle Theatre at 5:30 pm. Director Carrasco will speak at 6 pm and it is expected that the 105 minute film will begin about 6:30 pm. The film, which contains violence and sex, is in Spanish with English subtitles. Both the film and the exhibit are free and open to the public.
Some stories are not easily told. But, “La Otra Conquista” is one worth hearing.