Film vet brought 'Father Amaro' to the bigscreen

Veteran Mexican producer Alfredo Ripstein Jr., father of director Arturo Ripstein, died Jan. 20 at the age of 90. He had just celebrated his 65th wedding anniversary with wife Frieda and their entire family that day.

Ripstein was instrumental in bringing 19th-century Portuguese novel “The Crime of Father Amaro” (El Crimen del Padre Amaro) to the bigscreen in 2002. Produced with grandson/partner Daniel Birman, priest drama was toplined by Gael Garcia Bernal and continues to be the top-grossing Mexican pic of all time.

The son of a Polish merchant, Ripstein Jr. came to Mexico at the age of 5. He cut his teeth in film production at Simon Wishnack’s Filmex, where he served as production manager and executive producer from 1942. Eight years and nearly 50 films later, he struck out to found his own indie, Alameda Films.

He produced a steady stream of films with helmers including Alejandro Galindo, Alberto Isaac, Jorge Fons, Chano Urueta and his son, Arturo.

A serious accident interrupted a prolific career in the late ’70s, but he came back with renewed energy in 1993 to produce a string of hits including his son’s “Principio y Fin”; Fons’ “Midaq Alley” (El Callejon de los Milagros) which launched Salma Hayek, then a young telenovela actress; and “The Crime of Father Amaro,” his last film.

Stoked by the controversy it roused in Catholic Mexico, Carlos Carrera’s “Father Amaro” went on to reap box office gold as well as winning a raft of prizes at home and abroad, including a nomination for the foreign-language Oscar in 2003.

Ripstein is survived by his wife, son Arturo, daughters Sylvia and Patsy, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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