Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guillermo Arriaga at the Virginia Film Festival

Mexican novelist, screenwriter, and film director Guillermo Arriaga was a special guest at the 2008 Virginia Film Festival.

Babel, for which Arriaga wrote the screenplay, was shown on the afternoon of October 31. I had not seen it previously, and almost walked out. It is truly an awful film, although it has a few intriguing sequences. Any one of the overlapping plots might have made an interesting movie by itself -- except for the story of the deaf, nymphomaniac, Japanese high-school coed --but this is one example of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.

There were two Arriaga films I was unable to see: He presented his 2000 film, Amores Perros, on Saturday afternoon, and his newest film, The Burning Plain, which stars Charlize Theron, on Saturday evening.

On Sunday afternoon, however, I caught Arriaga's 2005 collaboration with Tommy Lee Jones (who directed and starred), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which was well worth seeing. From production design to character development, every element of this film is on target. The collaboration with Jones brought out the best of Arriaga (who also appears as a cowboy in one scene in the film), who -- as his post-screening conversation with the University of Virginia's Hector Amaya demonstrated -- is a thoughtful, personable, and good-humored interlocutor.

Guillermo Arriaga introduced The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, explaining how he became involved in the project, and then took the stage after the film concluded to discuss how the film was made and to answer questions from the audience. (He revealed, for instance, that Melquiades Estrada is a real person, and now, because of the movie, he is the most famous illegal alien in an unnamed small town in Wisconsin.)

Here is Arriaga's introduction:

And here is the post-screening discussion moderated by Hector Amaya:

(Note that the first, shorter video is also posted to YouTube while the second, longer video is also posted to Google Video.)

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