A man of passion fought a revolution for his improvished gente and for the women he so loved
By Elia Esparza
Amorous Pancho Villa, is a gem of a film beautifully shot that seamlessly pulls us into the mind, heart and soul of Mexican Revolution’s most infamous general, Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula aka Pancho Villa.
Filmmakers Juan Andres Bueno and Lourdes Deschamps have made a film that is unlike any other about the international icon—and there have been dozens—yet no other story has ever captured the depth of Pancho Villa’s passion to live and die for his ideals. Amorous Pancho Villa, a Spanish-language film with English subtitles, has garnered many awards in the film festival circuit (St. Tropez Film Festival won “Best Foreign Language Feature,” Best Costume,” and “ Best Film of Festival”, and at Madrid International Film Festival won “Best Foreign Film”). With the recent success of Mexican film, Instructions Not Included, there is no doubt that the captivating Amorous Pancho Villa is a film that will also appeal to the U.S. general and global markets.
The film opens at the a funeral wake where the residents of Parral, Chihuahua have gathered to mourn the murder of their revolution hero, Pancho Villa. Among the mourners are four of Villa’s wives, where in an awkward confrontation between Luz Corral (Gabriela Canudas) and another wife Lichita (Veronica Jaspeado). Corral, Villa’s first wife and the one recognized by such by both the Mexican and U.S. governments, starts to recount her husband’s life. The wake, which has a feel of a classic dark film noir, alternates to full color flashbacks as Luz and Lichita take us back to their husband’s life journey, exposing his strengths and weaknesses.
Amorous Pancho Villa resurrects the life a man of humble beginnings, Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula who as a young boy killed the rich ranch owner who was in the process of kidnapping his sister. He goes on the run hiding with relatives in mountains of Durango where he hung out as an outlaw. Thus begins the journey to becoming the fearless and courageous leader who would emerge 17 years later as Francisco Villa.
Mexican actor Alejandro Navarrete not only looks and sounds like the charismatic Villa, his representation is more like a channeling of his spirit. His convincing performance only adds to the integrity of the film. Navarrete’s narration transports us into this man’s mind, heart and soul. We can’t help but feel so much empathy for him—his ideals, beliefs and passion for women, family and education. The film also features four of Mexico’s most important actresses: Diana Bracho, Paola Núñez, Veronica Jaspeado y Dominica Paleta whose brilliant performances tug at our heartstrings.
Amorous Pancho Villa is based on a Mexican best selling book, “Itinerario de una Pasion – Los Amores de mi General”, written by Villa’s granddaughter, Rosa Helia Villa Guerrero.
I tracked down one the director/producers, Juan Andres Bueno to ask how in the heck they were able to make a film on what Hollywood would consider a low budget even for Mexican cinema.
As we got to know Juan Andres Bueno, we learn that he arrived to the U.S. at the age of 12 when his father moved the family from Mexico to Beverly Hills when he was named president of Azteca Films, the distribution company founded by Alberto Salas Porras, who is credited to bringing together Mutual Films and the legendary Pancho Villa. Bueno attended 90210’s middle and high schools and became totally immersed in everything Hollywood.
“My father was involved in all aspects of film, production, distribution and exhibition,” said Bueno, “I was fortunate enough to be involved in all aspects and learned from him and with him. He gave me the first opportunity to write and direct in my early films.”
It was in Beverly Hills where as a young man Bueno had the good fortune to meet Sid Sollow, then president of Consolidated Film Industries. “Sid,” said Bueno, “would affect my life immensely both as a role model and mentor.” And, so it was that Consolidated Film Industries became Bueno’s first film school and initiation to the film art form. “It was also with Sid’s help that Herb Browar brought me to the cutting rooms of Filmways T.V.,” he added.
As a result of Sollow and Browar friendships, Bueno would work on such iconic shows as The Addams Family, The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. In 1967, he was admitted to local 776 of the IASTE Film Editors Union.
Juan Andres Bueno knows how to tell a story on film and through the collaboration of several key individuals like Lourdes Deschamps, Jorge Rubio, Elias Godoy Ortiz Mario Hernandez, Mayra Mendoza Villa, Rafael Carlos Moreno Garcia, Arturo Tekayuenhuatzin Perez, Antonella Sanmaiego and cinematographer, Arturo de la Rosa, it is no wonder that Amorous Pancho Villa has completely enchanted us.
LatinHeat: Why Amorous Pancho Villa when there are already so many films about the infamous general made throughout the decades?
Juan Andres Bueno: I have always admired Villa. His integrity and sense of social justice makes sense to me—his passion for a better life for all—is an inspiring thought.
Approximately 10 years ago, I was teaching screenwriting and direction at a small film school in Mexico City when one of my students, Mayra Mendoza Villa, [later became editor and post-producer of Amorous Pancho Villa], brought to my attention a novel written by her aunt and granddaughter of Pancho Villa. The book, “Itinerario de una Pasion – Los Amores de mi General” dealt more with the personal life of the revolutionary hero who had for scores of years been maligned by the very people who murdered him.
I found factual information in the book to be fascinating since it brought to light a totally different concept of the man and his life. This Villa is a man who laughs, cries, hates alcohol and loves ice cream, candy, Coca-Cola and canned asparagus. A Villa who adores children and takes care of hundreds of orphans, sending many of them to the U.S. to study; a Villa who married 18 times and cared for all those women, but destiny denied him a lasting relationship—this was a different story angle I felt strongly needed to be told. The research facet became perhaps as thrilling as the making of the film itself.
LH: Amorous Pancho Villa has the feel and look of a high budget film. Can you share how a film of this magnitude came together with a lower budget?
JAB: The making of the film was originally programmed for an eight-week shooting schedule. But at the end we were not satisfied despite the great acting by our cast and a great job by our crew and our director of photography Arturo de la Rosa. The film was therefore reedited and three weeks of additional shooting were required for us to be content with the final result.
The total budget for our film was approximately $5 million, an amount most difficult to recuperate in the Mexican film market, yet a sum that can buy enormous production value due to the lower costs and incentives that the country provides.
LH: How difficult was the casting process?
JAB: The casting for the part of Villa was a grueling experience. We looked at hundreds of actors all over Mexico until we finally heard of a theatre actor in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, who might fit the part. We contacted Alejandro Navarrete and came to an almost immediate conclusion; he and only he was the Pancho Villa we had been looking for.
LH: Who is your target audience?
JAB: Our experience from the reactions at film festivals and other presentations of the film is that audiences, particularly the female viewers of all ages, reacted in a most positive manner, enjoying the adventures of a man who had so much love in his heart, enough to share with many.
JAB: Villa had an Air Force that consisted often of Americans and Mexican-Americans, men who went on to fight in WWI. And yes, upon hearing of the murder of Pancho Villa, a group of around 50 or so American airmen gathered over ten thousand Hawaiian orchids and on the first anniversary of his death dropped those flower blossoms over his grave. We took poetic license of placing this scene on the day of his burial. But, yes, it really happened and it was more than a symbolic metaphor—it was a show of respect for a man who fought to give his people a better quality of life.
Amorous Pancho Villa is an extraordinary film based on some of Villa’s wives real life accounts. The story delves into the heart and soul of Pancho Villa’s personal life and brings to light many historical facts not widely known, like how much he loved the American way of life – the way the U.S. government provided education (public schools, libraries) to its citizens.
Villa’s wives knew they were loved. Yes he loved many but in his heart of heart, he would never disgrace them by seducing them into his bed without honoring them by marrying them first. They had his children, some died at childbirth and his surviving wives stood by praying that he would return to them alive. He had different reasons for loving them and only one wife of the 18 did not love him back. She was offered to him by her ambitious and money hungry mother, and as a result this wife only allowed sex using a special virginal sheet. Cold as ice that one. She was the only one he ever legally divorced.
The film also captures the domino effect of what Villa called the “era of betrayal” starting with General Victoriano Huerta’s hatred and disdain toward Pancho Villa. Huerta was just looking for any excuse to get rid of him once and for all. One evening at a social event both Huerta and Villa set their sights on a beautiful and sophisticated woman named Piedad. Villa being the astute romantic waited his time then asked her to dance and at the end of the evening, convinced Piedad to marry him. Villa stole a mare on which together they rode off to the justice of the peace. Huerta had his excuse and ordered to have his nemesis executed for stealing the horse. Raul Madero, president Francisco Madero’s brother arrived in the nick of time to save Villa’s life. Villa had one spectacular honeymoon night with his Piedad and never saw her again. It was said she had died giving birth to their child.
General Huerta’s hatred toward Villa fanned the flames to the “betrayal era” when Huerta had Francisco Madero assassinated and so the betrayals went on until they caught up with Villa who was murdered in his hometown of Parral, Chihuahua on July 20, 1923 at the age of 45. Amorous Pancho Villa is a film not to be missed. History buffs and romantics will be taken back to a time when one lived or died for his or her ideals— where Villa’s women played a pivotal role in the Mexican Revolution.
Amorous Pancho Villa
Genre: Epic Adventure, Romance
Runtime: 125 Mins.
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital, DTS
Filmed: Red One
Language: Spanish with English Subtitles
Producers/Directors: Juan Andres Bueno, Lourdes Deschamps
Executive Producer: Jorge Rubio
Writers: Juan Andres Bueno, Lourdes Deschamps, Elias Godoy Ortiz Mario Hernandez, Mayra Mendoza Villa, Rafael Carlos Moreno Garcia, Arturo Tekayuenhuatzin Perez, Antonella Sanmaniego
Cinematographer: Arturo de la RosaOriginal Music: Poncho Toledo
Cast: Alejandro Navarette, Gabriela Canudas, Diana Bracho, Joaquin Cosio, Venonica Jaspeado, Paola Núñez, Dominica Paleta, Rocio Verdejo, y Tere Ruiz
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