The Other Conquest

Topiltzin (Delgado, right), son of Emperor Moctezuma, goes just a little bit mad when confronted with the Spanish conquest ... and Catholocism.
dir-scr Salvador Carrasco
with Damian Delgado, Jose Carlos Rodriguez, Elpidia Carillo, Inaki Aierra, Honorato Magaloni, Guillermo Rios, Luisa Avila, Josefina Echanove, Lourdes Villarreal, Ramon Barragan
98/Mexico 2 out of 5 stars

Set in the 1520s, The Other Conquest travels back in Mexican history to the days of Spanish conquest and colonisation when the Catholic priests were spreading the gospel to the local "heathens" while the soldiers pillaged the countryside. You get the feeling that the filmmakers are well schooled in history and want to show how their culture was changed irreversibly by the conquest. But the drama (which blends fact with lots of fiction) doesn't work, and the film ends up feeling more like a history museum display.

The plot centres on two characters: Friar Diego (Rodriguez) who has a real love for the natives; and Topiltzin (Delgado), son of Emperor Moctezuma, horrified at the slaughter around him and confused by religious imagery that positions St Mary where the Mother Goddess should be. These two characters are more alike than they know, but they're put in tension by the people around them ... and their own actions.

Sadly, this was obviously done on a shoestring. The cinematography is efficient and slick, but that only highlights the awful costumes (they look like they were safety-pinned together just before filming) and the lack of extras in vast, utterly empty rooms and landscapes. Not to mention the completely gratuitous grisliness, sex and nudity. There are good ideas and it's quite fascinating, but it's so stilted and overwrought that we're never drawn into it at all.

[adult themes, grisly violence, nudity] 2.Nov.99
8th St Louis Film Festival; US release 19.Apr.00

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"I saw this when it played at the AFI Film Festival and it really knocked me out: within the context of a historical drama there was an abundance of bizarre and provacative images, sex in situations where such sensuality was totally unexpected, the violence of human sacrifice and torture, mystery and wonderful performances, music and costumes - all with a message of spirituality and tolerance by the ending - quite a feat for a first-time filmmaker. I think anyone with the patience for a more classical style of film than we are used to today, and the desire to be transported to a different world, will find this movie to be a gem." --Storeroad, net.

"Wow, what an extraordinary film! Talk about the power of art to change you forever. The Other Conquest is a true masterpiece, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a cinematic gem destined to become a classic for all time. Apart from being incredibly entertaining, this Mexican film is so moving, thought-provoking, sensitive and illuminating about a subject matter that applies to all human beings (no matter the time and place, social group or ethnic background) that it should become part of the obligatory curriculum in all high schools and colleges of our multicultural nation. Bravo to everyone involved with this unique and unforgettable film that, for a change, makes me proud of being a member of the human race!" --filmmoviebuff, net.

"I saw The Other Conquest twice, for my simple movie taste. It is an enthralling work; it starts hitting you in the face and then just kicks your ass for the rest of the movie. The main fact is that the brutal Spanish did murder and rape a whole civilization. It was natural for them; back home in Spain the Spanish tortured lots of people. So it was a great movie that should be re-released in the US. Or at least released to tape so more people can see a great movie." --Joe DeFiglio, Santa Barbara 12.Sep.03

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1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall