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Arts & Culture

Interview: 'Bless Me, Ultima'

Actors Talk About Adapting Famous Chicano Novel To Screen

Cinema Junkie Interview: "Bless Me, Ultima"
Interview: 'Bless Me, Ultima'
KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando interviews the young actor from "Bless Me, Ultima."

“Bless Me, Ultima” has been cited as the best-selling Chicano novel of all time but it took more than 4 decades for it to reach the screen. The film version of "Bless Me, Ultima" opened in select San Diego Theaters on February 22. Watch my video interview with two of the actors.

Director Carl Franklin gained fame for his edgy indie films “One False Move” and “Devil in a Blue Dress.” Both dealt with race and with violence. For “Bless Me, Ultima,” he returns to similar themes but within different contexts. This time the story involves a young boy of Mexican descent who is growing up in New Mexico during World War II.

Antonio is constantly asking questions because he wants to make sense of the world, a world that introduces him to violence at an early age. Actor Luke Ganalon identifies with Antonio’s inquisitive nature.


"Everything’s just coming at him when he’s 7. He has questions about life and religion and really needs help and that’s where Ultima comes in."

Ultima is a mysterious healer that some call a witch. Antonio’s father explains that understanding the world is about having sympathy for people.

Antonio's father explains to him that understanding the world is about having sympathy for people, and "Ultima has sympathy for people, with her it's so complete that she can touch them and cure them."

“Bless Me Ultima” explores an intersection between religion and spiritually that’s complicated by cultural differences. Ganalon says the film gave him something to think about.

"We call things evil because we don’t really understand them sometimes and that is something that’s really stuck with me."


“Bless Me Ultima” is rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual references, and is in English and Spanish with English subtitles.