ONCE UPON A TIME IN NEW MEXICO
Meet Elvis tribute artist Rojo Gonzales
Rojo was born in New Mexico, USA in August 1967 to a Mexican mother and a red-haired father he never met. The flame haired, pale-skinned Rojo was sent to live with his big-hearted grandmother in San Medina village in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico while his 20-year-old single mother stayed and worked in the US.
Rojo was consistently bullied as a child, mainly as a result of his unusual looks, portly disposition and docile nature. His grandmother’s house became a safe haven from the cruel local bullies, who would taunt him daily. It was there that Rojo was encouraged to develop his budding singing talent. Even by the age of ten, Rojo was honing his craft by entertaining his grandmother and her elderly friends regularly at house parties and village gatherings. Rojo’s grandmother was an avid Elvis Presley fan. Her good-natured enthusiasm for all things Elvis rubbed off on her rotund grandson; so much so that it would play a guiding role in Rojo’s career path.
Coming to America
Rojo’s beloved grandmother died when he was 18 and he went to live with an uncle in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. Rojo trained to be a car mechanic and worked part time as a singer in local dive bars and strip clubs. Sick of working for a minimum wage in a humdrum job, he took to singing full time and soon became a popular entertainer on the retirement homes’ entertainment circuit in New Mexico and the bordering states. Over the years, Rojo’s jumpsuits became more flamboyant, and his stage persona ever more refined, as he honed his reputation as New Mexico’s premier Elvis Tribute Artist for senior citizens.
By the time our film begins, Rojo is 50 years old, married to a Native American Navajo named Camilla. Rojo is a near absentee father to their 15-year-old daughter, Siouxie, who has serious self-loathing issues. Rojo is still on the road but performing irregularly now because of cutbacks in retirement home budgets. He’s struggling to make ends meet, pay his housing loan, and save money to send Siouxie to college. Meanwhile, Rojo’s wife Camilla is tired of having an absentee husband who spends more time with elderly ladies than with her. She’s become weary of her husband’s behaviour and his perceived lack of interest in his family duties.
A rude awakening
After a five-day tour, Rojo arrives home in Albuquerque. A new $2,000 Elvis-inspired jumpsuit is waiting for him. But when Camilla discovers that Rojo paid for it out of the family’s holiday fund she decides that it’s the last straw in Rojo’s struggle with reality.
Camilla separates from Rojo on a trial basis, saying she needs him to change: to get a “normal” job, settle down and spend more time with their daughter Siouxie. Camilla and Siouxie go to live with her father, Dark Oak, on the Navajo reservation where Camilla grew up. She uses this opportunity to help Siouxie become familiar with her Native American heritage, which she feels has been neglected.
A crestfallen Rojo takes Camilla’s ultimatum seriously. He gets a job at Sam’s Cadillac Ranch, where he is bullied at work by his loud, overbearing boss, Sam Black. The only solace that Rojo finds here is friendship with his Syrian work colleague Hassan. Their boyish banter helps Rojo make it through the tough days. A well of frustration is building up within Rojo. The scars left by years of bullying at the hands of lesser men is causing Rojo to drift back into negative behavioural patterns.
One particular day, Rojo is called to Siouxie’s school after she has a fight with a classmate. Siouxie was defending her father after the classmate uploaded a video on YouTube showing Rojo splitting his trousers in an embarrassing on-stage accident. Rojo pleads with Siouxie to apologize to the boy, whose well-heeled family is threatening to sue. Siouxie refuses to do so and unleashes a tirade of home truths. She runs away, immediately regretting her outburst at her father, who, despite his problems, has a deep bond of understanding with his damaged child.
With his life in tatters, Rojo begs for divine intervention. That night his prayers are unexpectedly answered when he receives a visit from a silver tongued angel in a jumpsuit. The Elvis-like angel, who labels himself as a life coach, inspires Rojo to face up to his failings and to rebuild his life using a unique bespoke approach. A warm, inspiring bromance develops between the two, who represent different sides of the same coin.
Out of the blue, Rojo is offered a lucrative-yet-perilous gig in Mexico, playing for the mother of a major drug cartel boss on her 80th birthday. The angel encourages him to do the gig despite the inherent danger of being butchered by the ruthless cartel. Rojo accepts the assignment so he can help pay off his debts and start afresh. For their own safety, Rojo does not inform Camilla or Siouxie about the job. Rojo arrives in Chihuahua and is taken blindfolded to a secret location for the concert.
Rojo is confronted with the same bullies who tormented him as a child. Only now, they work for the cartel and its boss is Eduardo ‘El Guapo’ Sanchez. That’s right… Rojo’s chief childhood tormentor. Rojo must use his newfound confidence to navigate the treacherous waters he finds himself in. Will he sink without a trace, or will he swim to the top in triumph?
Caught in a trap
The concert ends dramatically with a police raid on the party. El Guapo is captured and extradited to the United States. The news makes international headlines and, amid the confusion, Rojo is arrested. Dramatic footage of the triumphant concert and Rojo’s controversial jumpsuited arrest goes viral on YouTube. Camilla finds out and is furious at Rojo for concealing the truth from her. She decides to leave him for good.
Rojo is released from custody and returns to the US, where he resumes his day job. The only upshot is that his boss Sam has suddenly warmed to Rojo: his newfound celebrity can surely help improve business.
You can't walk out
The Elvis angel reassures Rojo that events so far have all been part of his masterplan: there are more steps to go along the path to redemption as Rojo sets about conquering his fears, repairing damaged relationships and finding his true self. Rojo has reached a turning point in his life. The whole experience has shown him what he has to do to make everything right and to be true to himself.
Rojo decides to take a course of action that could cost him everything, but may also help him win back what is most important to him: his family. Can’t wait to know what happens to The King of New Mexico? No problem – just invest $5 in this movie to help us reach its climatic, thrilling and surprising end!