MEXICO CITY — Filming began late last month on a small picture about an ancient Mexican legend — yet only 100,000 people are expected to understand it.
That’s because “Erendira la indomable” (Erendira the Untamable) is the first feature to be shot in the Purepecha lingo spoken by Indians in west-central Mexico, about four hours from Mexico City.
Some Mexican films have incorporated bits of Indian tongues, such as last year’s “Zapata,” which was partially spoken in Nahuatl, one of Mexico’s 62 Indian languages.
Moreover, pic’s cast are all Tarascan Indians, including 17-year-old Mari Carmen Valentin, who plays the film’s title character. “Erendira” follows in the footsteps of pics such as “Atanarjuat the Fast Runner,” the 2001 production made in the Inuktitut language of the Inuits in Canada’s far, frozen north.
“Atanarjuat,” too, had a small budget — $1.25 million, compared with $1.15 million for “Erendira.” The Canadian pic showed extensively on the fest circuit and grossed nearly $4 million in the U.S. alone.
Pic is helmer Juan Mora’s second feature, after 1991’s “Retorna a Aztlan” (Return to Aztlan), which also dealt with pre-Colombian themes. In 1987, Mora shared a Mexican Ariel award for screenplay for the film “Cronica de familia” (Chronicle of a Family).
This time, he has backing from Mexico’s film funding agency, the Mexican Film Institute (Imcine), as well as Michoacan state’s tourism board, where the pic is being lensed.
Mora does not speak Purepecha, and the script, which was written in Spanish, had to be translated. Pic tells the story of a young woman who fights Spanish Conquistadors to protect her people. Mora says he hopes to have the film ready for release by year’s end.