Humor, imagination and journalistic work in the search for the Colima origin of Neil ‘El Güero’ Armstrong

Comala, July 1969. It is the highest point of the space race. Simón is a down-and-out journalist who writes sensational articles in the local newspaper. A few weeks before man’s arrival on the Moon, he accidentally hears a rumor that could bring him sudden success: Neil Armstrong, an astronaut who is part of Apollo 11, is Mexican and was born in Llano Grande, a small town in the south of Jalisco. With this stroke of luck, he will be able to defeat his archenemy Pepe de la P, obtain the fame he longs for and finally have the recognition of his father. But first he must deceive an entire town, determined to hide the truth about El Güero Armstrong.

What is described in the previous paragraph is witty, fanciful and ironically inspired by real events. It’s the premise of the comedy A Mexican on the Moon —based on the book of the same name by the journalist and writer Manuel Sánchez de la Madrid—, in competition in the Made in Jalisco category, a section of the Guadalajara Film Festival that seeks to expose the identity traits and great stories that are made in the State .

This story, directed by Jose Luis Yáñez López, Techus Guerrero and Francis Levy Lavalle, is born from an anecdote. From a dinner at the house of a friend of Sánchez de la Madrid back in the late sixties. A woman who served them food, who comes from a town in the plain south of Jalisco, upon hearing the news tells them that the American Neil Armstrong, who would become the first man to step on the Moon, was really where he came from. she, Zapotitlán de Vadillo, remembers producer Ozcar Ramírez. Then the journalist, curious about this comment, goes to this town to investigate and discovers the plot of a story full of imagination of a son in order to give peace to a dying father, which inspires him to imagine his own version of the same.

Ramírez met Sánchez de la Madrid during a visit to Colima. He insisted a lot to adapt his book and, in the face of so much insistence, the producer challenged the journalist: if he gave him the script in a month he would make the film, if not, they considered the issue settled. “The truth is that I bet him that he was never going to write the story. He gave me the script in a month and I had to keep my word,” he says.

However, for the film not everything went as planned. After having been in development for almost three years and looking for financing, two months before filming began at the end of 2021, at an event to find more financial injection, Francis Levy, the director, suddenly collapsed in front of Ramírez and another of the producers. They attempted to resuscitate him at that point while taking him to the hospital. The medical staff tried to revive him for 15 minutes, but he had died.

“I had no health history. He was a shock absolute. The next morning I had a meeting with the team, telling them that the family was asking us to continue with the project. I needed everyone to continue. Cinema is a very delicate joint. Of course you can do without people, but all the previous work changes. I told the heads ‘either we are all in the project or it is cancelled.’ The response was totally unanimous. We all moved forward and the new challenge was deciding who was going to direct it,” Ramírez recalls.

The actors Héctor Jimenez and Alessio Lapice in a scene from the film ‘A Mexican on the Moon’ (2024).Mechanical Art / Solaria Films

The producer, with experience in almost thirty films, first thought of experienced directors to take on the vacancy left by his partner, but everyone who showed interest wanted to change the vision that had been worked on in recent years. Ramírez refused, as he wanted to keep his word to make the film Levy had envisioned. So they opted for José Luis Yáñez, who was the first assistant director assigned.

“José Luis is from Mexico City and so he was unaware of many of these linguistic and cultural nuances that were so important for Francis and for them to appear correctly in the film. So, I put my executive producer, Techus (Guerrero), as co-director just to keep an eye on those issues, so that the film felt authentically from Colimote,” he clarifies.

Levy, according to the producer, wanted A Mexican on the Moon, starring Héctor Jiménez and Roberto Ballesteros —among others—, felt like “a provincial film” —“without any desire to be derogatory,” he clarifies—, and that this is reflected in the rhythm, cadence, aesthetics, language and the ways of small communities in the south of Jalisco. The goal of his partner, he says, was for this film to be the first of many to be filmed in Colima, in which they “speak singly,” with a Colima tone, since “they have a beautiful way of speaking.” Ramírez says that the last movie filmed in Colima, with a great production and work team, was rebellious women (1995), by Alberto Isaac, almost 70 years ago.

“We wanted the edition to have a semi-slow pace, that the shots were not changing every so often, that it did not have this somewhat frenetic cadence that Chilango editors usually have. Not all of them obviously, they tend to overcut a film because that’s what the rhythm of the city is like, you’re turning everywhere, on the street, on the subway, driving,” he clarifies.

Some other references they took were from works such as political satire inspector underwear (1973), by Alfonso Arau, as well as the work of José The dog Estrada Aguirre, father of filmmaker Luis Estrada, for the type of cinema with stories that occur in fantastic universes within everyday life, which is combined with that black sense of humor. These examples were not a recipe to be followed to the letter, but they were a reflection of the tone that he sought to imprint on A Mexican on the Moon.

“I think the movie adds a lot of this. inspector underwear It is a social criticism in a tone of complete farce and we are more in a tone of classic comedy,” Ramírez clarifies.

A Mexican on the Moon will continue with the festival route while awaiting its theatrical release tentatively in February of next year, already with an agreement closed with a distributor. The film is also assured of distribution on digital platforms for Mexico and Latin America, while negotiations are still underway for its release in streaming in United States. A Mexican may not have been to the Moon yet, but at least this fiction, which humorously imagines this feat, will continue with his mission through different territories.

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