in development: Where is Juan Moctezuma?
Where is Juan Moctezuma? is a fake documentary drama about 1970s Mexican horror director, Juan F. Moctezuma II, a hopeless romantic who wants to make a Hollywood film to win the heart of his childhood sweetheart, Lisandra. Many years later, when reels of that film are uncovered, cinema historian Alaric Rocha pieces together Moctezuma’s lifelong fight to win Lisandra’s love. Alaric discovers the tragic lengths Moctezuma went through to cling to his romantic ideals.
This project has been a labor of love over the past decade. The research is deep and detailed. I have become so immersed in Mexican cinema history that I have taught classes. At this point we have made three of the five films Moctezuma would have made in the 60s and 70s, which have done well in film festivals around the world including, Stiges. Several filmmakers who have played a version of themselves have done interviews on camera to talk about Moctezuma, and I hope to get more high-profile interviews to launch the film. Currently Bob Levitan and Rana-Joy Glickman are producing with me.
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.
That movie, Pathways has been missing until today when it was discovered among the things of Mexican TV producer, Lisandra Tena, an actor in one of Moctezuma’s previous films. Alaric Rocha, a Moctezuma expert has restored many Moctezuma films and was asked to identify and restore Pathways. Alaric decides to make a documentary and answer the question: Where is Juan Moctezuma?
Through interviews with friends and co-workers of Moctezuma Alaric learns Moctezuma and Lisandra grew up together in a small town in Mexico. They both dreamed of making movies. Moctezuma was in love with Lisandra and wanted to make her famous by putting her in a Hollywood film he would direct. This would ensure they could be together forever.
Moctezuma got his big break when his first experimental film won him the opportunity to make a studio film in Mexico, A Priceless Woman (1961). The studio insisted a luchador be in the film (a masked wrestler, a sure bet for a financial success in Mexico in the 60s). El Escorpión, the assigned luchador flirted with Lisandra making Moctezuma jealous. So, he cuts El Escorpión’s part down to a minimum. This infuriated the studios and Mexican audiences. Moctezuma was black balled from the Mexican film industry. Lisandra, more interested in success distanced herself from Moctezuma and accepted El Escorpión’s marriage proposal.
Certain he can still make a Hollywood film and win Lisandra back, Moctezuma found a way to make indie and underground films. El Escorpión kept a jealous eye on Moctezuma and undermined every one of his films. Moctezuma was finally able convince Lisandra to be in one of his films, Demonoid (1971). During the production Lisandra was offered her first role in an American film, abruptly leaving the set with a promise to stay in touch. Moctezuma, reinvigorated by Lisandra’s promise finishes Demonoid (1971) without Lisandra. It finally gets him the attention in the United States and began production on Pathways with Roger Corman.
Meanwhile, Alaric seems to have hit a wall: Moctezuma disappeared, but why? Alaric returns Pathways itself and recognizes Aztec lore themes in Moctezuma’s films. Alaric dives into researching, and it takes him to a small unknown museum where he discovers Moctezuma has been living. Alaric slowly befriends Moctezuma, gaining his trust to tell his story.
He learns Moctezuma went to Mexico City to invite Lisandra personally to be in Pathways. The only way he could speak to her without tipping off El Escorpión was to go to an El Escorpión luchador match. Moctezuma entered the match in disguise and revealed himself to Lisandra and told her about Pathways and his desire for her leading role in the film. Lisandra declined the offer. Shocked and devastated, Moctezuma refused to leave the ring, and ended up throwing El Escorpión into Lisandra, sending her to the hospital and ‘killing her.’
Over the years Moctezuma developed a delusion to cope with his guilt. He believes while filming Demonoid (1971) Lisandra became possessed by the Aztec demon of the film. That is why she turned him down, and now her spirit is being held captive by the demon. Moctezuma has spent his life mastering the ceremonies related to the demon, hoping that he will be able to summon her, destroy her, and free his love, Lisandra.
As Alaric had already learned, the truth from that night is El Escorpión let Moctezuma throw him into Lisandra, only barely hurting her, but for publicity he convinced Lisandra to fake her death. Alaric tries to tell Moctezuma the truth about Lisandra, but Moctezuma refuses to accept any of Alaric’s ideas and is so upset he has a heart attack.
Doctors tell us Moctezuma’s heart is very weak, and he doesn’t have much time left but Alaric feels Moctezuma should have the connection with Lisandra he always wanted. The son of El Escorpión agrees and together they use their resources to create a special effects supernatural experience for Moctezuma that allows him to fulfill his fantasy, destroy the demon, and reunite with Lisandra. They are successful and Moctezuma feels fulfilled but dies naturally soon after. Alaric finishes Moctezuma’s unfinished film, Pathways with the ending Moctezuma wanted.
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.