The Other Conquest (La Otra Conquista)

The Other Conquest (La Otra Conquista)

Infobox_Film | name = The Other Conquest("La Otra Conquista") |

| imdb_id = 0175996 | writer = Salvador Carrasco | starring = Damián Delgado,
José Carlos Rodríguez,
Elpidia Carrillo,
Iñaki Aierra,
Honorato Magaloni,
Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez | director = Salvador Carrasco | producer = Alvaro Domingo | executive producer = Plácido Domingo | line producer = Rosalía Salazar | cinematography = Arturo de la Rosa | editing = Salvador Carrasco | music supervisor = Andrea Sanderson | art director = Brigitte Broch | music = Samuel Zyman,
Jorge Reyes | music supervisor = Andrea Sanderson | distributor = flagicon|Mexico 20th Century Fox
flagicon|USA Union Station Media | released = 1999 | runtime = 110 min. | language = Spanish and Náhuatl | budget = $3.5 million |

"The Other Conquest" (Spanish: "La Otra Conquista") is a 2000 Mexican feature film written and directed by Salvador Carrasco, produced by Alvaro Domingo, and executive produced by world-renowned tenor Plácido Domingo.

The film is an epic yet intimate drama about the aftermath of the 1520s Spanish Conquest of Mexico told from the perspective of the indigenous Aztec people. It explores the social, religious, and psychological changes brought about by a historical process of colonization that both defined the American continent and is also highly reminiscent of today’s neocolonialism. It is regarded by top critics (e.g., Kevin Thomas [] , Richard Nilsen [] , Larry Ratliff [] , among others) as one of the best cinematic explorations on the effects of colonization and also "one of the more astonishing feature film debuts in recent memory" [] . "The Other Conquest" stands alone in its depiction of the unique and complex fusion that took place between the Catholic faith brought to Mexico by the Spaniards and the Aztec beliefs of the indigenous natives.

Tagline: "The spirit of a people can never be conquered."


It is May 1520 in the vast Aztec Empire, one year after the Spanish Conqueror Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico. "The Other Conquest" opens with the infamous massacre of the Aztecs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan (what is now called Mexico City). The sacred grounds are covered with the countless bodies of priests and nobility slaughtered by the Spanish armies under Cortés's command. The lone Aztec survivor of the massacre is a young Indian scribe named Topiltzin (Damián Delgado). Topiltzin, who is the illegitimate son of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma, survives the onslaught by burying himself under a stack of bodies. As if awakening from a dream, the young man rises from among the dead to find his mother murdered, the Spanish in power, and the dawn of a new era in his native land --a New World with alien leaders, language, customs... and God. Representing the New Order is the Spanish Friar Diego (José Carlos Rodríguez). His mission is to convert the "savage" natives into civilized Christians; to replace their human sacrifices and feathered deities with public Christenings and fealty to the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Topiltzin, Friar Diego faces his most difficult spiritual and personal challenge, for when Topiltzin is captured by Spanish troops and presented to Cortés (Iñaki Aierra), the Spanish Conqueror places Topiltzin's conversion under Friar Diego's care. Old world confronts the New as Topiltzin struggles to preserve his own beliefs, whilst Friar Diego attempts to impose his own. Moreover, throughout the film, a fundamental question arises: Who is really converting whom?


On November 8, 1519 the Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortés and his small army rode into the Aztec capital of the vast Mexican Empire, where they were welcomed by the Emperor Moctezuma. Within two years, the Aztec civilization was in a state of orphanage, the survivors having lost their families, homes, language, temples... and Gods

"The Other Conquest" opens in May 1520 when Topiltzin (Damián Delgado), a skillful Aztec scribe who is one of Moctezuma's illegitimate sons, survives the Massacre of the Great Temple by hiding under a corpse. After the Spaniards leave the sacred site, he finds his people dead, including his mother.

By 1526 Topiltzin is still striving to preserve the cult of Tonantzin, based upon the Aztec Mother Goddess. When a squadron commanded by Captain Cristóbal (Honorato Magaloni) and Friar Diego (José Carlos Rodríguez) discover the clandestine human sacrifice of a beautiful Aztec princess, two incompatible ways of life come face to face... and violence erupts. Topiltzin manages to escape by making Friar Diego believe he is drawn to the statue of the Virgin Mary that accompanies the Spaniards wherever they go. He is eventually captured and presented to Hernando Cortés (Iñaki Aierra), who has just returned from an ill-fated campaign to Las Hibueras (today's Honduras). In an attempt to create a hybrid empire, Cortés has taken Emperor Moctezuma's daughter and heiress, the notorious Tecuichpo (Elpidia Carrillo), as his new mistress and interpreter. She reveals that Topiltzin is her half-brother, and a skeptical Cortés spares the young man's life, but in turn decides to convert him to the new Spanish ways with the aid of Tecuichpo (from now on, Doña Isabel) and Friar Diego. After being subject to a brutal ritual of conversion, Topiltzin (now called Tomás) is confined in the Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Light.

Five years later (1531), under the tutelage of Friar Diego, Tomás is struggling to reconcile two worlds which could hardly be more different but which also share some basic truths. However, Friar Diego realizes that Tomás and Doña Isabel are forging Cortés's correspondence with Charles V, King of Spain. Things become even worse when Friar Diego discovers them making love inside the monastery, in a desperate attempt to perpetuate their race. Friar Diego takes it upon himself to save Tomás's soul, and asks Cortés to keep Doña Isabel from returning to the monastery. A pregnant Doña Isabel is secluded in a dungeon.

The overwhelming absence of his half-sister erodes what is left of Tomás's world. He falls into a state of desolation and illness. A well-meaning Indian nun (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez) applies medieval remedies to him, but these only help turn his feverish attacks into hallucinations that merge Christian and Aztec imagery. Tomás has a vision whereby the Virgin Mary is revealed as the Aztec Mother Goddess.

The arrival of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the monastery, a token of gratitude from Cortés to Friar Diego, now causes Tomás to become genuinely drawn to the statue as a substitute for all he has lost, and he sets on a personal crusade to conquer her. If he absorbs her powers, if he fuses with her, redemption will follow.

Is the Indian's conversion real? Or is Tomás trying to retain his own beliefs under the guise of the new creed? Will he be able to survive with his sanity intact? These questions start revolving in Friar Diego's head, and although he puts many obstacles to keep Tomás from entering the sacristy and consummating his obsession with the statue, he finally allows Providence to decide whether Tomás's mission is legitimate or not. So who is in fact converting whom? Maybe the greatest mystery in the history of beliefs is how certain unorthodox encounters make us continue believing...

Release and box office

"The Other Conquest" broke box-office records upon its 1999 release in Mexico by Twentieth Century Fox, "enjoying the biggest opening weekend of any Mexican film in history on its home turf." [ (The New York Times)] When it was released in Los Angeles the following year, it grossed 1 million dollars [] and was selected as one of The Los Angeles Times’ Top 10 Films of 2000. [] In the summer of 2007, the film was re-released in select cities across the United States and it made its long-awaited debut on DVD [] in October 2007. Bonus materials include director-writer Salvador Carrasco’s commentary and 15 deleted scenes.

Conception and production

The idea for "The Other Conquest" came to director Salvador Carrasco, a native of Mexico City, during his final years as a film student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, specifically on August, 13, 1991, the 470th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. “Living in New York at the time, I found myself more sensitive to such dates. Trying to imagine what it might have been like back then, it occurred to me that in the face of military defeat and the ensuing losses, an Aztec Indian could resist the Spanish Conquest by carrying out his own form of spiritual conquest --i.e., through ‘conquering’ or absorbing the powers of a statue of the Virgin Mary, in whose name his oppressors were ruling, he’d be able to redeem himself and his people. Needles to say, it is no coincidence that the patron saint of Mexico is the Virgin of Guadalupe, a Virgin Mary with indigenous features. This singular image became the launching point for a short screenplay I began to write, which later evolved into "The Other Conquest".” - Salvador Carrasco.

It was at NYU where Carrasco met his friend and future producer, Alvaro Domingo, son of legendary tenor Plácido Domingo. After an intense period of research, Carrasco developed a script centering on a young Aztec scribe and his forced conversion to Catholicism at the hands of Spanish invaders. Domingo was immediately taken in with the story after Carrasco presented it to him at a restaurant in Mexico City, and it was his idea to take the short film idea and expand it into a full-length feature film. Domingo says, “I just fell in love with the story right then and there. We resolved to create our own company, Carrasco & Domingo Films, using it as a platform to take the plunge together.”

Getting funding for the project proved to be a tough road; the film was first rejected by three different administrations of the Mexican Institute of Cinema (IMCINE). Carrasco was even berated by some for wanting to cast a pure indigenous actor in the lead role. After the initial rejections, Carrasco and Domingo sought independent financing, including from Plácido Domingo himself, who served as Executive Producer of "The Other Conquest". Of the film Plácido Domingo has commented, “What makes this film so unique is its message of cultural tolerance --something so much needed in today’s world.” Seed money also came from Mexican philanthropist Manuel Arango, who had also sponsored Carrasco’s film studies in New York. More funding came from private investors and Mexican public institutions.

Casting began with an eye towards the authentic and Carrasco searched the world over for his ideal cast. “I wanted actors not only to appear as if they belonged in 16th century Mexico, but also to embody the prevailing values of the time,” remembers Carrasco.

It wasn’t long before the perfect actor to embody the film’s lead character, Topiltzin, was found. Damián Delgado, a native of Oaxaca, had made a career as a professional theatrical dancer.

Filming lasted about seven years, due to funding and even domestic political and economic issues Mexico faced during the 1990s. “Those were three hard years of carting around a VHS videotape with 35 minutes worth of an unfinished film. Three hard years of a great uncertainty, wondering whether we’d be able to complete this film, though deep in my heart, I always knew we would.”- Alvaro Domingo.

Salvador Carrasco has also commented on the feeling of being a young, opera-prima director attempting to accomplish a major work: “ We needed to dispel certain notions that a film like this couldn’t be made; that first-timers like ourselves couldn’t accomplish something as ambitious as this. We needed to prove that we could…to others, and to ourselves.”

Shooting took place in many diverse, original locations including the pyramid of Tenayuca (in the heart of Mexico City), the archaeological site of Xochicalco and the Hacienda de Santa Mónica. Carrasco’s wife, Andrea Sanderson, a Juilliard-trained violinist, joined the production team and especially helped with the film’s impressive production design. “Andrea and I must have visited every possible archaeological site within a 300-kilometer radius of Mexico City,” remembers Carrasco. “We were looking for an intimate, timeless setting with distinctive architecture, far away from the metropolis, where clandestine rituals could have taken place without the Spaniards knowing.” Colonial plazas and even underground caves were also discovered and used to great effect in the film, giving it a rare, convincing air of complete authenticity.

For the film’s lush, evocative music score, Salvador Carrasco approached classical composer Samuel Zyman and Jorge Reyes, renowned for his work in original indigenous music. Plácido Domingo contributed by performing an aria, “Mater Aterna," with music by Zyman and lyrics by Carrasco, that plays during the end credits.


Web articles

[ Los Angeles Times 2007 feature story on "The Other Conquest" re-release]

[*+High+audience+turnout+for+the+Mexican+epic+%27The+Other+Conquest%27+follows+a+careful+marketing+strategy+with+a+crossover+appeal. Los Angeles Times article on high-audience turnout for "The Other Conquest"]

[ Los Angeles Times 2000 feature story on "The Other Conquest" release]

[ Los Angeles Times feature story on Director Salvador Carrasco]

[ Los Angeles Times article: "Chasm Separates 2 Movie Views of Mexican History"]

[ Los Angeles Times article on soundtrack of "The Other Conquest"]

[ "Alibi" (New Mexico) (USA) 3 May 2007, Vol. 16, Iss. 18, pg. cover, by: Devin D. O'Leary, "The Other Conquest Conquers America: An interview with writer/director Salvador Carrasco"]

[ "The Hollywood Reporter" (USA) 11 April 2007, by: Gregg Kilday, "Indie 'Conquest" re-enters U.S."]

[ "Indie" (USA) 12 April 2007, by: Monika Bartyzel, "Mexican Indie Flick 'The Other Conquest' Gets Second Chance"]

["Variety" (USA) 11 April 2007, by: Dave McNary, "'Conquest' wins re-release"]

Monographic related books

Miriam Haddu. Contemporary Mexican Cinema, 1989-1999: History, Space and Identity. The Edwin Mellen Press, 2007, Pg. 276, (BK), 0773454330

Tom Hayden. The Zapatista Reader. Nation Books, 9 November 2001, Pgs. 166-177, (BK), 1560253355

Jack Rothman. Hollywood in Wide Angle: How Directors View Filmmaking. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004, Pgs. 113-165, (BK), ISBN 081085015x

Deborah Shaw. Contemporary Latin American Cinema: Breaking into the Global Market. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., February 2007, Pg. 216, (BK), 0742539156

John Willis. Screen World: Film Annual. Applause Cinema Books, Vol. 52, 2001, Pgs. 296-297, (BK), 1557834784

Jason Wood. The Faber Book of Mexican Cinema. Faber and Faber, 7 September 2006, Pgs. 49-56, (BK), ISBN 057121732x

Jorge Ayala Blanco. La Fugacidad del Cine Mexicano. Océano de México, 11 September 2001, Pgs. 331-334, (BK), 9706512349


[ Salvador Carrasco. "The Invisible Sight". In: The Zapatista Reader, Nation Books, 9 November 2001, Pgs. 166-177, (BK), ISBN 9781560253358 --Scroll down to bottom of page--]

[ Santiago Juan-Navarro. "Between El Dorado and Armageddon: Utopia and Apocalypse in the Films of the Encounter" Delaware Review of Latin American Studies; Vol. 6, No. 2; January 15, 2006]

Guadalupe Loaeza. "Todos Somos Topiltzin". In: Periódico Reforma, Palabra, 14 April 1999, (NP)

Eduardo Subirats. La Otra Conquista. In: Revista El Angel, Periódico Reforma, 25 October 1998, Pgs. 3-6, (MG)

Salvador Velazco. La guerra de imágenes en 'La Otra Conquista,' de Salvador Carrasco. In: Cuadernos Americanos Nueva Epoca, UNAM, Vol. 87, May 2001, Pgs. 128-132, (BK)

Printed Media Reviews

Don Bain. The Other Conquest Examines the Consequences of Empire. In: La Voz Nueva (Denver, Colorado, USA), 17 October 2007, Pgs. 8-11, (NP)

Elsa Bragato. La Otra Conquista. In: Revista Así, 17 December 1998, Pg. 1, (MG)

Eduardo Ruiz. La Otra Conquista: el triunfo de la tesis sobre el drama personal. In: Excelsior, 5 November 1998, Pg. 33, (NP)

External links

* [ "The Other Conquest" at Rotten Tomatoes]
* [ "The Other Conquest" official website]
*imdb title|id=0175996|title=The Other Conquest
* [ "The Other Conquest" MySpace site]
* [ "The Other Conquest" soundtrack at Varèse Sarabande]

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