This is a beautifully-made film with some striking features and a unique story. It is the best film made on the Spanish conquest of Mexico, combining rich storytelling with powerful images and memorable performances.
Director Salvador Carrasco focuses on the human side of a major historical event, presenting characters that transport us back in time to a moment where radically different cultures met, clashed and molded together to form a new society. Damian Delgado is unforgettable as the Aztec scribe Topiltzin, who finds his world changed forever when the Spanish arrive, smash the old empire and impose a new religion. Elpidia Carrillo is full of strength and heartache in her portrayal of Tecuichpo, sister of the fallen Montezuma, now the trophy wife of the conqueror Hernando Cortes who is wonderfully resurrected by Inaki Aierra with presence and hubris. Embodying the religious invasion of the Aztec world is friar Diego de La Coruna, played with great sensitivity by Jose Carlos Rodriguez.
What Carrasco does so masterfully with these characters is use them to not just tell the story of the conquest, but to make us feel it intimately. The script does not cop out with senseless violence or dime novel theatrics, Carrasco is seriously trying to explore the human cost of a world which radically changes both culturally and in its religious makeup. Gone are false heroics or cardboard characters in this film, the performances never make us doubt for once that these are human beings experiencing powerful events. The dialogue is both elegant and fierce, clear but intelligent.
Carrasco and his team also re-create the world of the conquest with stunning art direction, costume design and lush, elegant cinematography. "The Other Conquest" was made on a small budget and yet contains images and shots worthy of Kubrick or Kurosawa. There is a delicate attention to detail in every frame, Carrasco manages to create a world that we can inhabit while experiencing the movie. The masterful score by the late Jorge Reyes and Samuel Zyman is a lush mixture of indigenous and classical music, providing a beautiful rhythm to the film.
There is a group of historical events which are endlessly mined for films, particularly World War II and Ancient Rome, yet few films have been made in our hemisphere about one of the key events in the history of the Americas. "The Other Conquest" doesn't just use the story of the Spanish invasion of Mexico for entertainment, it is indeed the only serious cinematic study of the cultural, social impact of this event. And in this age of war, culture clashes and new debates about language, religion and their places in society, a film like "The Other Conquest" provides much more than any of the big budget films hogging the rental charts. This is a unique work that should not be missed.