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A 'Heavenly' Film Hits DVD

13 Sep, 2008 By: Angelique Flores

Tortilla Heaven

It seemed to take a series of miracles for Judy Dumontet to get Tortilla Heaven made. Now the quirky comedy is seeing a DVD release Oct. 14 from Lightning Media, with distribution from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

This is the second release under Lightning Media’s distribution deal with Anchor Bay. The DVD will be priced at $26.97.

Tortilla Heaven is set in a small New Mexico town where things get turned upside down when Jesus’ face appears on a tortilla. The film had a limited theatrical run last year and was nominated for a 2008 Alma award in the category of outstanding performance of a lead Latino/a cast in a motion picture.

“This is a story of ‘Si, Se Puede,’” said director and writer Judy Dumontet, who made her feature film debut with Tortilla Heaven. “It was a dream to have a film with an all Latin and Native American cast in non-ethnic-specific roles.”

However, Dumontet said she had to fight with the studios for her cast.

“It was greenlit at three studios in 1992 or ’93, but they didn’t want my cast,” she said. “They wanted to do it with Cheech (Marin), Eddie (Edward James Olmos), the usual Latino actors.”

Dumontet pursued Latino comics and actors who were unknown at the time. She ended up casting comics George Lopez and Rick Guiterrez, Jos, Z£ñiga (“CSI,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), Alexis Cruz (“Shark,” “Stargate”), Ana Ortiz (“Ugly Betty”), and veterans Oliva Hussey and Lupe Ontiveros.

Getting the people of Dixon, N.M., to let the filmmakers in proved easier than expected. Dumontet pitched the film at a town hall meeting, and the people of Dixon liked the story, she said. They were proud to be a part of a film where Mexicans and Native Americans were playing themselves, she said, and they let the filmmaker use their furniture, buildings, pictures and churches.

“Some days they even fed us,” Dumontet said.

However, another hurdle for Dumontet came after shooting wrapped in 2003. When the film was on its way back to Los Angeles from New Mexico, it was exposed to radioactive materials, warping the film, Dumontet said. Dumontet said she went back and forth with the insurance company, which wouldn’t pay for the damage, and looked into having the film restored. More than three years later, she decided to reshoot. But with so much time having passed, things had changed.

“Anyone who was thin was now fat. Anyone with long hair had short hair,” she said.

But they reshot half the film, and the rest of the footage was restored by Efilm and Luma Pictures.

The film is getting a marketing boost from both Latino and religious communities, despite containing a scene of brief, nonsexual nudity. The film has had support from Catholic priests, as well as Paul and Jan Crouch of TBN, who gave their blessings for the movie.

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