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Mexican Directors Taking Hollywood By Storm

Marty Schroeder | Monday, February 12, 2007

American directors have long dominated Hollywood and the Academy Awards. Foreign directors have had difficulty making inroads into the upper echelons of Hollywood. Granted, there are notable exceptions such as Ang Lee from Taiwan and Michel Gondry from France who made “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” respectively. However, this year marks a paradigm shift inside the highest awards of American (and many would argue world) cinema. A group of Mexican directors has taken Hollywood by storm – a group similar to the French New Wave of the 1960s. Not similar so much in filmmaking style, but similar in bringing creative talent and amazing films from outside of the United States.

Alejandro González IñárrituBorn in Mexico City in 1963, Alejandro González Iñárritu entered movies by studying filmmaking under Ludwik Margules and directing under Judith Weston. During the 1990s, he worked for Mexican TV company Televisa and became one of their youngest directors. Moving on from Televisa, he set up Zeta films, which focused on advertising and short films.

His entrance into the world of feature filmmaking came with “Amores Perros.” Written by longtime accomplice Guillermo Arriaga, the film was nominated in 2001 for the Best Foreign language film and brought Iñárritu to fame. This fame materialized itself in the invitation to direct the film “21 Grams” and work with famed Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro. This film garnered high critical praise from art film circles and del Toro and Naomi Watts received Academy Award nominations for their performances. The success of this film translated into the current nominee for Best picture, “Babel.” Regarded by many to the this years frontrunner for Best Picture due to its Golden Globe win, “Babel” has marked Iñárritu’s entrance into the inner circles of Hollywood directors and his first definite mainstream success.

Guillermo del ToroDel Toro rose to Hollywood fame through a different path – he began his career by directing big budget comic book films such as “Blade II” and “Hellboy.” Instead of moving closer and closer to Hollywood, del Toro began his career there and has moved further and further away while still retaining the credibility and fame he built up. Moving away from comic books this year, del Toro released the almost universally critically acclaimed “El Laberinto del Fauno [Pan’s Labyrinth].” The favorite to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, “Laberinto” has stolen the hearts of viewers around the world with its story from civil war-era Spain.

Alfonso CuarónThe third member of the Mexican directorial trinity, Alfonso Cuarón entered feature filmmaking with “Sólo Con Tu Pareja [Only With Your Partner]” – a dark comedy about a playboy businessman who contracts HIV. It was very popular in Mexico and garnered him some attention not so much with the American public but with the industry. His big break in the American film scene came with the provocative “Y Tu Mamá También.” This was made in Mexico with a Mexican cast but was a smash hit in the American art-house circles. Producers noticed and gave Cuarón the helm for the third installment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Cuarón was criticized by “Potter” fans for not following the book religiously. However, many critics regarded this film as a drastic improvement over the previous two “Potter” films.

Following this was his latest effort, “Children of Men” starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Sir Michael Caine. He, more so than the others, has had massive success both with Spanish and English language films.

All three of these directors represent the filmmaking talent and creativity from Mexico. In an age when Hollywood can do little more than make sequels, these men are making some of the most creative and highly acclaimed films of the year. From the fantasy of “El Laberinto del Fauno” to the grittiness of “Children of Men” to the epic sweep of “Babel,” these three men promise that the Mexican cinema is alive and well and American directors could certainly learn much from them.