in development: Where is Juan Moctezuma?
With the passing of my mother I made a startling discovery. Not only was my mother an actor in three films by the director Juan F. Moctezuma II, he was also my father. Before her death, my mother sent films reels of Moctezuma's last film to Mexico. This movie, Death Has 1000 Pathways was to be Moctezuma's and Mexico's first international success produced by Roger Corman. However in the middle of production Moctezuma stole what footage they had and disappeared. Mr. Corman has commissioned me to find the missing film. Doing so allows me to uncover the mystery of my heritage, Moctezuma's life and how it ties into my own.
Mexican cinema reached a low point in quality and quantity from the 70s – 80s. It wasn’t until 1992, with Like Water for Chocolate, that Mexican film acquired international acclaim. Guillermo del Toro is really the first auteur director to come out of Mexico. Luis Buñuel was Spanish, Alejandro Jodorowsky was Chilean and Robert Rodriguez was born in Texas. There is one Mexican horror director with a short-lived career named Juan Francisco Moctezuma II who was poised to be the auteur director that Mexico yearned for in the 70s. However in the mid 70s, with only two thirds of his next film shot he disappeared.
The reasons are unknown. Some suspect he filmed something he shouldn’t have during the 1968 student protests and the government finally caught up with him. Perhaps he had to go into hiding or changed his name. Most likely he is dead. Others like to fantasize that because of his horror movies he somehow got mixed up in an occult or the supernatural. There are stories that something bizzare and dangerous took place on the set of Moctezuma's last completed film, Demonoid (1971). There is a love/hate attitude towards Moctezuma. Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, Rodriquez and many more owe Moctezuma II a great deal but his disappearance set Mexican and genre filmmaking back 20 years.
Moctezuma’s movies and a few old props found in my mother's belongings are clues to start our journey. At first we’re told by the Mexican government that Moctezuma died in 1976 but as we continue to interview people he knew, evidence emerges that suggests he died much later or could still be alive. As our search becomes more intense the parallels between Moctezuma/my father and myself become more apparent. A significant prop from a Moctezuma's film Demonoid (1971) film leads us to his location.
Moctezuma is alive but the sadder reality is that Moctezuma stopped making films because of a delusion. Moctezuma’s wife and star actress, my mother left him in the middle of one of their film shoots, Demonoid (1971). Moctezuma “romantically” chased after her and inadvertently caused her death (or so he thought). Struck with grief and being cursed with his creative mind Moctezuma believed his wife did NOT leave him but instead was possessed by a demon, like the one in his film. Moctezuma returned to the shooting location of Demonoid (1971) which, according to archeologists and historians is the place where this Aztec demon, Itzpapalotl is really supposed to reside. Moctezuma became a hermit in this small mountain town looking for ways to battle Itzpapalotl and save the spirit of his dead wife.
When I finally find Moctezuma, I foolishly rush in with the fact that we’re family. Challenging Moctezuma’s delusion and basically telling he wasted his life searching for his wife ends in disaster and Moctezuma suffers a heart attack.
Moctezuma needs to leave his camp and get to a doctor or he may die, but Moctezuma is insistent that the time is near for the demon Itzpapalotl to appear. He must face her in order to speak to his wife again. I decide to help Moctezuma live out his delusion by using common place technology Moctezuma has lost touch with (my phone, a projector, laptop, etc) to bring the demon and my mother to him. Moctezuma does not survive, but dies in peace.
I return to Corman with the missing reels of "Death Has 1000 Pathways" but the ending was never filmed. With Corman and Trejo's help we finish the film.
Three of the five Moctezuma films have been made. We are currently working acquire Danny Trejo to be in the fifth Moctezuma film.
We have begun filming interviews for the documentary. The goal for this year is to travel to Mexico to film B-roll of Moctezuma locations. For an up to date list of cast and crew visit our IMDB page.
Artistic and Marketing Approach:
The best part of this project... (this is top secret) Juan F. Moctezuma II is not real! While the history laid out on Mexican cinema is all true, the fictional Moctezuma and family history have be nested into reality so audiences will have the thrill of believing the story and its huge emotional impact are all real.
In the world of the film, Moctezuma created five films. We have created three of those five as short films and all have done well in festivals. It is my goal to release these into the world as found films really made by Moctezuma and lure audiences into thinking Moctezuma and his films are real. Similar to the affect the Blair Witch Project had on audiences. Through social media we have laid the groundwork to create a cult following for Moctezuma so that when the feature film is released there will already be an audience waiting.
The footage from the Moctezuma short films will be used in the feature film as traditional B-roll but in another unique way as well. Where is Juan Moctezuma will illustrate how a filmmaker will put his/her own life into their films. Footage from the shorts will be used to illustrate moments in Moctezuma’s past. For example when Moctezuma reveals his wife was killed in a car accident we will show footage from Una mujer sin precio (1961) where a woman is killed in a car accident. The scenes from all the shorts will have a new meaning put in the new context.
Both of these techniques will allow audiences to continue to experience the movie outside of the theater, encouraging them to (pay to) view the short films and increase awareness /research of Latino films history.