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By Azucena Mazón and José Antonio Pérez. Spring 2017
The majestic sand dunes and rocky landscapes of the Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar Biosphere Reserve served as background for the Sonoran “road movie” filmed in the area last Spring, directed by Alejandro Springall and based on a script by Puerto Peñasco novelist Guillermo “Don Memo” Munro.
Based on Munro’s novel “La Ruta de los Caídos” (Route of the Fallen), locations across the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve set the stage for filming during the months of April and May, 2017. The film itself, which details a 1930s pilgrimage across the desert and crossing of paths of people from diverse backgrounds, also provides an important opportunity to promote tourism in the region and Sonora in general.
Puerto Peñasco novelist Guillermo Munro wrote the script for “La Ruta de los Caídos” in 1997, initially under the title “El Camino del Diablo”, which arose from the novel’s first conception in 1976, which he then wrote in 1992. The script was then bought by Guillermo del Toro’s production company Tequila Gang, and then adapted by screenwriter John Sayles.
“Sonora”, which is the name reportedly to be given to the film once it hits theaters, retraces the story of a long journey across the Sonoran desert during a 1930s summer, following the travelers as they make their way toward California during a period of Chinese persecution.
Director Alejandro Springall detailed more than 100 people made up the extensive film crew, including an international cast with renowned Mexican actors such as Joaquín Cosía, Jovanna Zacarías, and Juan Manuel Berna, among many others. Noting the absolute support for the film from the State of Sonora, Springall emphasized the film will take the magnificent scenery and geography of Sonora to numerous international film festivals.
Joaquin Cosía, renowned contemporary Mexican film star (El Infierno, Matando Cabos, Pastorela) who interprets the part of an indigenous Tohono O’odham man, took time to meet with Tohono O’odham members in Puerto Peñasco in preparing for the role. This included visiting ritualistic sites and learning about their traditions.
Director Springall explains, “It is both a story and original script developed by a man who knows the area and has tremendous devotion for it, that being Guillermo Munro. As a director, it is a story with which I fell completely in love as it explores a period not well-known in Mexico, particularly with respect to the relationship with the United States during the Great Depression and the historic closing of the border.”
“It is a grand Mexican film, an epic story of 13 people traveling in a 1928 Ford, while we also give it a modern Western twist,” he noted.
For the writer, “Don Memo”, the fact his script finally made it to film was not fortuitous but rather an answer to many years of chipping away, and of perseverance. After first conceiving of the idea, he wrote the first versions in both English and Spanish and sought to promote it, sending it on to directors at meetings and festivals. It wasn’t until actress Jovanna Zacarias read the script and shared it with Springall, that the script drew the interest of Tequila Gang and producer Bertha Navarro. Springall, along with Navarro, would eventually bring the film to life.
“Sonora” is expected to be released in Mexico some time in 2018.
Photos courtesy of Guillermo Munro Palacio