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in development: Where is Juan Moctezuma?


A mockumentary that investigates the life of legendary (fake) 70s Mexican horror film auteur, Juan F. Moctezuma II, who fought to make a Hollywood film to win back the heart of his life long love from a luchador! On the cusp of realizing his dream Moctezuma dissapeared andn took the film. The tragic revelation is that living one’s life like a movie is fun and romantic, but dangerous.



This “documentary” looks at the Mexican horror genre and specifically the films of director Juan F. Moctezuma II. The ’60s – 80s were a golden era of Mexican cinema, but it lacked variety. More importantly, Mexico yearned for an auteur of international acclaim. Many Mexican directors possessed a voice for Mexico, Ripstein for example, or were only "adopted Mexican." Only one was enough to draw worldwide attention: an unknown horror director with a short-lived career who paved the way for Guillermo del Toro, Cuarón, Iñárritu, and others. Juan Francisco Moctezuma II was poised to be the auteur director that Mexico yearned for in the 70s. Instead, he disappeared midway through filming his last known film, “1000 Paths of Death” (1977). Moctezuma and the film were championed by a B-movie producer with an eye for talent who started the careers of many others. For Moctezuma to betray this producer is unimaginable. It would be as if Coppola turned his back on Roger Corman and disappeared and we never got "The Godfather."


Reels and storyboards from this legendary missing film, “1000 Paths of Death,” have recently emerged. For Alaric (a character version of myself), the horror film aficionado and documentarian, already in the process of restoring Moctezuma’s other films, this reel is a huge missing piece to the puzzle of where and why he disappeared all those years ago and turned his investigation into a documentary.


Through interviews with Mexican and horror film directors, film scholars, and people who knew Moctezuma, we learn that Moctezuma’s muse and ultimately his downfall was his childhood sweetheart and actor Lisa, who starred in his second film, “Una mujer sin precio/A Priceless Woman” (1961). Lisa wanted desperately to be a movie star, and Moctezuma wanted nothing more than to make movies with and for Lisa. Moctezuma loved Lisa profoundly and wanted to deliver her dream so that he could achieve his dream of living happily ever after with Lisa as husband and wife and creative collaborators. However, on the set of “A Priceless Woman,” Lisa's co-star, a Mexican Luchador (masked wrestler), El Escorpión flirted with her. In the ’60s and ’70s, a Mexican film was a guaranteed success with a Luchador in the movie. Moctezuma begrudgingly agreed to cast El Escorpión in the film, but when he saw the Luchadore flirting with his love, he took revenge by cutting him out of most of the movie. Recutting the film was a pivotal and detrimental move by Moctezuam. When he betrays El Escorpión, he wrongs the entire Luchador community. Since luchadors and Mexican film were synonymous and the Mexican government controlled the film unions, they had the power to bar Moctezuma from even stepping on a set, let alone directing a film. For the next 17 years, Moctezuma clawed his way back into the film world and to Lisa’s heart to make “1000 Paths of Death” in 1977, constantly under-minded by Lisa’s now husband, El Escorpión.


In his documentary research, Alaric has noticed Moctezuma’s last two films, “Demonoid” and, what there is of “1000 Paths of Death,” are inspired by Aztec mythology. Alaric takes a deep dive into the topic, reading as much as possible and visiting the many museums, great and small, in Mexico City focused on Aztec lore. At one of these small museums, there is a fantastic discovery. A prop from one of Moctezuma’s films, “Demonoid,” is on display at the museum. This discovery led Alaric to the filming location of "Demonoid," a park called Las Pozas in the state of San Luis Potosí. 

Here Alaric finds Moctezuma! In the middle of performing the Aztec ceremony from his movie! Before it is possible to interview him or speak with him, Moctezuma pulls Alaric into the ceremony and attempts to make him a sacrifice. In the struggle, Moctezuma dies. From Moctezuma's journals we find...

Moctezuma returned to Mexico after filming most of “1000 Paths of Death” to entice Lisa to be in the film. To do so, he would have to wrestle her husband, El Escorpión, in a Lucha match! During the match, Moctezuma found a moment to reveal himself to Lisa and offer her the role in his movie, but she refused. Moctezuma took out his rage on El Escorpión, accidentally knocking him into Lisa and sending her to the hospital. While in reality, it was only a minor bump, El Escorpión used this moment as a publicity stunt and told newspapers that she had died. Privately, Lisa’s life goals had shifted from acting to producing TV, and she agreed this stunt would allow her to leave the limelight and start her Azteca TV company. 


Moctezuma, however, never knew the truth El Escorpión hid from him. Fraught with guilt, Moctezuma created a delusion that while filming “Demonoid” with Lisa for a guest role, they violated the Aztec demon featured in the film, Itzpapalotl. Moctezuma believes Itzpapalotl really did possess Lisa and even now holds her spirit captive in the afterlife. The only way Moctezuma can save her is to perform the Aztec new fire ceremony at the filming location of “Demonoid” in the Sierra Gorda mountains when the Pleiades star cluster aligns again in one month, where Alaric found him. 


Having finally put the pieces of Moctezuma’s life together and witnessing his death, Alaric has a complete picture of his story, both the story he lived and the story he fantasized about. Alaric is determined to finish Moctezuma’s masterpiece, “1000 Paths of Death,” as the glamorized, romantic, horror version of Moctezuma’s biography. Ironically, the romanticized movie version of Moctezuma’s self-perceived life deals with the loss of Lisa more maturely than he did in real life. As Moctezuma himself said, the horror genre allows Moctezuma to process feelings in the fictional movie he couldn’t in real life.

A final review with the friends and fans of Moctezuma gives a collective sense of peace to all that his legacy as a storyteller will live on despite the tragic reality that he could never bear to confront. In some of his final words, we learn the profound truth about Moctezuma’s love for the horror genre: "It allows us to process realities we can’t face in real life in the disguise of monsters. Monsters are the bad guys; we can put all our hate and failings into them without guilt, while in reality, we are all a mix of monster and angel.” 

Artistic statement:

On the surface, Where is Juan Moctezuma? is a nostalgic homage to Mexican horror film and the cultural legacy of forgotten filmmakers — yet at the core, it is a romantic tragedy meant to remind people that no matter what you believe (the story you tell yourself), there is no escaping reality.


Where is Juan Moctezuma? is a mockumentary to captivate audiences into believing Moctezuma and his films are real. Interviewees in the fake documentary will all play character versions of themselves, but not everything in the film will be fake. The fiction is nestled in real history. Moctezuma himself is loosely based on the authentic Mexican horror director Juan Lopez Moctezuma. The Moctezuma films shown in the mockumentary were made to be historically accurate to the years they claim to be made and will provide the audience with a tour of the history and styles of Mexican cinema before Mexican cinema was mainstream. It is truly a glimpse into an overlooked and forgotten piece of film history. We will also blend true archival footage and images into the film to tell this fantastical story.

The reason for making this a mockumentary is to intentionally blur those lines between reality and fantasy, as we often do in our everyday lives. It gives people a thrilling story close enough to reality that it is believable while building enough mystery and intrigue to give people pause to think for themselves. The horror genre is the ideal place for this type of storytelling, as a genre built on creating abstract reality based loosely on real human truths. Moctezuma’s character should make audiences genuinely consider whether this man is real and think, “How did I not know about this guy?!” The goal is for people to lean in and seek answers for themselves, resulting in a more emotional and uniquely memorable experience.

The Films of Juan F. Moctezuma II

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