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.


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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.

The Films of Juan F. Moctezuma II

Los amantes del señor de la noche (1960): Ant 2017, Found Footage

Sci-fi, Drama

A young gawky chemist, Emilio Fernández yearning for love creates a tonic that transforms him into whatever any woman wants. However this alter ego, dubbed Don Venustiano has an evil and manipulative streak that breaks these women’s hearts and spirits. The women run to Emilio for comfort but for love they cannot stay away from Don Venustiano. Emilio must decide what is more important.This short is pieced together from films in public domain and glued together with bits of original footage. Moctezuma II was a projectionist and collected these clips to make his first film, which won a contest and launched his career.

Una mujer sin precio (1961):

Sci-fi, Comedy

When the perfectionist scientist, Dr. Víctor Junco loses his wife, Maribella to a car accident he builds a robotic version to replace her. When he realizes he can continue to "perfect" his wife he eventually creates the "perfect" woman but perfection does have a price.


Screenings and Awards:

  • DePaul University MFA Grant Recipient 2014

  • Best Picture and Director, DePaul Premiere Film Festival 2014

  • SITGES Film Festival, Spain 2014

  • 50th Chicago International Film Festival 2014

  • 31st Imagine Film Festival, Amsterdam 2015

  • Best Short runner up, 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival 2015

  • International Student Film Festival, Bulgaria 2015

  • Dances with Films, Los Angeles 2015

  • Best Director, Lighthouse International Film Festival 2015

  • 3rd Place, Elgin Film Festival 2015

  • Rojo Sangre Film Festival, Buenos Aires 2015

  • Camp Cult Classics, LA 2016

  • San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016

  • Best Homage, Silver Scream Festival, Santa Rosa, CA 2016

  • FilmQuest, Provo, UT, 2016 

  • Other Worlds, Austin, TX, 2016

Una mujer sin precio (1961) - Trailer

Sci-fi, Comedy

Las fieras (1969): 16mm

Monster, Drama, Thriller

Alcira is a bookworm and student of human nature through art and poetry, though rarely participating. When a curse strikes and ape-like creatures invade the city Alcira locks herself into the University bathroom. Weeks of pure loneliness teach her the strength of human connection and in the end it is her love for others that will save her.


Screenings and Awards:

  • Guanajato International Film Festival, Mexico 2015

  • Post Mortem Film Festival, Mexico 2015

  • Blow Up Chicago Art House Film Festival 2015

  • Philip K. Dick Film Festival, NYC 2015

Demonoid (1971):

Horror, Drama, Comedy

A group of campers journeys into the jungles of Mexico (shot on location in Las Pozas in San Luis Potosí, México) but the vacation turns to horror when one by one members of the group goes missing. When Julian (Jorge Karlóz) discovers it's his own girlfriend, Erika (Gabriella Mayorga, star of Las Fieras 1969), killing people off he can't believe it; he's right it's the Aztec demon, Itzpapalotl, possessing the innocent Erika. Now those left living with the help of an Aztec priest (Antonio Monroi of Apocalypto) must perform the ancient Aztec new fire ceremony in order to save Erika, their own lives and all of humanity, but it all depends on whether or not Julian truly loves Erika.

This film reflects Moctezuma II’s personal relationship with the lead actress.  It is also based on real Aztec mythology.

  • Seattle International Film Festival, WA 2016

  • Dances With Film, L.A., CA  2016

  • Another Hole in the Head, S.F., CA 2016

  • Rojo Sangre in Buenos Aires, Argentina  2016

  • Best Trash Film, The Optical Horror Fest in Rome, Italy  2016

  • Fantastic Cinema & Craft Beer Festival, Little Rock, AR 2017

  • Best Horror/Comedy Short, Silver Scream Festival, Dallas, TX  2017

  • DC Shorts Fest, Washing D.C., 2017

  • Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Bay City, MI, 2017

Demonoid (1971) - Trailer

Mil caminos tiene la muerte (1976):

Zombie, Drama

In "Death Has 1000 Pathways" Dr. Nava searches for his wife in an arctic wasteland overrun by bandits and zombies who must stay in temperatures below 30 degrees in order to “survive”.  With the help of his tanked van Dr. Nava spends 52 years searching for his wife, before discovering there are some things he cannot control.  Moctezuma II shot most of this film but never finished.  He disappeared.  The film is based on the Aztec lore of the underworld and represents Moctezuma's own journey to find and save his lost love.

This film still needs to be shot and would star Danny Trejo.  I have created an animatic of the opening of the film.  Some of the footage is from a Roger Corman film which I hope to use as a device to tie Corman to Moctezuma.



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