Film & TV

Legendary Director Alejandro Jodorowsky on The Dance of Reality, Dune, and Fatherhood

To call The Dance of Reality, the new film by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a personal film, would be an understatement. Writing in his native Spanish, from his home in Paris, the legendary director says, "The purpose of all true art is to reveal to man the beauty of your own soul."

He based the film on his memoir of the same name, which was released in 2001. It documents the cult filmmaker's difficult childhood with an abusive father, a shopkeeper in the small seaside town of Tocopilla, Chile. But the film also stands as a critique on ideology, both political and religious.

"Everything is political, everything is religious, everything is personal, everything is everything," Jodorowsky notes. "I did not film a piece of cake, I filmed the entire cake."

The film version of The Dance not only brings to life specific events from the book but also continues the surrealist filmmaking style that made Jodorowsky so beloved in the early 1970s when El Topo became the first "Midnight Movie." The film version also involves his eldest son, Brontis, who plays Jaime Jodorowsky, the father who bullies his son into "manning up" in the film.

Speaking via Skype from his home in Paris, Brontis says his father did not exactly have the kindest words about his grandfather.

"My father had told me that he was a bastard, a very bad father, a very violent father," he says. In fact, when, as a child Brontis asked why he and his brothers didn't have a relationship with their grandfather, his father recounted the story of when their grandfather took him to the dentist. The dentist offered Novocain before a tooth extraction, but Jaime told the dentist to do without so the boy could know what it was to be a man. "My father was very, very bitter with that," notes Brontis.

Alejandro Jodorowsky and his son, on the other hand, have a strong, loving bond. When he was 6 years old, Brontis starred alongside his father in El Topo. When he was 12, Brontis was also to star as the hero Paul Atreides in the director's adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. However, despite immense planning, which included the hiring of H.R. Giger as a designer, Pink Floyd as soundtrack composers, and such famed actors as Orson Welles and David Carradine, the film would never be made. A recent documentary by Frank Pavich has brought some semblance of realization to all the art and effort that went into the non-film.

But don't call Jodorowsky bitter. "In no way have I suffered," states the elder Jodrowsky. "For me failure is just a change of path. The two years spent preparing Dune changed my life; it was a sublime experience. In my soul, mind, heart, sex, I made the film. All that was left was to shoot it: a minor detail."

However, the filmmaker still has much passion reserved for the depth of preparation he put his then 12-year-old son through. It included several forms of martial arts with a strict teacher. It's the only time in the documentary where he seems a bit choked up about the failure to film the movie.

Brontis says, "I think he says this in a very gentle way -- it's almost like a private message -- 'Well, you trained for all that and finally we didn't do the movie.' But to me there's no regret at all. It was a fantastic moment. Sure, I would have loved that the Dune movie would have been done, for me, but not just because I spent a couple of years training, but because I found the project to be really incredible."

The elder Jodorowsky certainly does not admit to any regrets. "The preparation that I gave to my son is the same that I gave myself," says the director. "I practiced martial arts for many years, also Zen meditation. Brontis and I have a relationship that spans the abyss of father and son, to establish deep bonds of love on an equal level. We have a deep friendship." And isn't that the best result for a father and son?

The Dance of Reality opens Friday, June 6, at 7 p.m., exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque (1130 Washington Ave, Miami Beach). Actor Brontis Jodorowsky will present the film in person on June 14. On June 15, he will also introduce Jodorowsky's Dune and another film he stars in, Táu. On Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m., he will join Village Voice film critic Michael Atkinson and Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez on stage at MBC in the second installment of the Knight Foundation-sponsored series "Speaking In Cinema" to discuss this film and other works by Jodorowsky A meet-and-greet party at the Sagamore Hotel ends the night. Tickets for each screening and the event: Adult $11. Indie Film Club Miami Member $8. MBC Member $8. Student or Senior with ID $9. Call 305-673-4567 or visit

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Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos ( if not in New Times.