- Friday, June 18, 2010, 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
- All ages / $5
You've heard of cinéma vérité, this is cinema cheese. Cinema Con Queso screening events, held at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass., began in 2009 as an offshoot from Kansas Public Radio program “The Retro Cocktail Hour,” hosted by Darrell Brogdon. The radio show, Brogdon explains, is devoted to strange music, "all kinds of crazy, mixed-up music from the age of stereo."
This approach to the out-of-the-ordinary carried over into the film screening events as well. “When you call a film series Cinema con Queso, from the start you know you’re not coming to see a night of great movie making on par with 'Citizen Kane,' ” says Brogdo. “This is just fun, crazy, off-the-wall stuff.”
The film series began after Brogdon and a friend discovered a mutual love of lucha libre films. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it is based upon Mexican wrestling. Through connections made with the Mexican consulate in Kansas City, Mo. via his radio show, Brogdon was able to get his hands on authentic lucha libre films. "In Mexico, luchadores are like walking, talking, breathing super heroes. Many of them wear masks all of the time."
Well, Brogdon explains that running into one of these luchadores would be the equivalent to "living next door to Batman." Luchadores became so popular, in the '50s and '60s that Mexican filmmakers started creating low-budget movies starring the wrestlers. "They'd battle with aliens from outer space, spies, zombies, Aztec mummies and vampire women. The movies weren't that good ... but somehow they've developed a cult following."
Brogdon and fellow luchador enthusiasts began screening films within this genre at Liberty Hall starting in 2009. The staff at Liberty Hall has also worked to assist Brogdon and fellow enthusiasts track down the license holders and secure the rights to screen the films in the series.
On Friday at 8 p.m., Liberty Hall will once again host Cinema con Queso. This particular occurrence within the series is very special, however. “Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy,” is the first lucha libre film shot in English. It was shot right here in the Midwest by faculty and students of the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Jeffrey Uhlmann, associate professor in the school of engineering began teaching computer science at the University of Missouri in 2000. At the time, he had written the script for his film and had plans for production. With the help of faculty and students at the university, Ulhmann's film went into production in 2004.
Directed by Andrew Quint and Chip Gubera, the film was completed in 2007, the project extended over several semesters. Financed privately by the filmmakers, “Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy” boasts a surprisingly high production value for the genre, which was every bit intentional. "We went for the best possible the genre has ever seen," explains Uhlmann.
In addition, the cast includes 10 well-known Mexican luchadores, who traveled from Mexico to Columbia for the shoot including Mil Mascaras, film's titular luchador. El Santo, another well-known luchador also makes an appearance.
El Santo, who is actually the son of the original Santo, inherited his father's mask only after his death. “Santo made films in the '60s and early '70s and is by far one of the most famous in the genre. He's an icon down in Mexico. If you go down there you'll see statues of him," says Uhlmann.
The film has a great deal more than the luchadores though, with a wide range of characters. "You won't see a wilder, more fantastic psychedelic film," says Uhlmann. Included in the description of characters is right on par with Brogdon’s description of the genre, including an Aztec mummy, a robot and, of course, vampire women.
The screening will also include live music, with the Lawrence-based band BongoRita playing in advance of the screening at 7:30 p.m. “Right before the movie starts, we always do a luchador mask give away,” says Brogdon. A drawing will result in the gifting of four or five luchador masks to audience members.
Funded entirely by ticket sales, Brogdon and his team plan to continue the Cinema con Queso screening events. “It’s been a year since we’ve done it. Hopefully we’ll have more screenings sooner than a year from now.”