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Gael Garcia Bernal, 26

Films: The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education

Why: Gael Garcia Bernal exploded on the scene in three of the most notable Mexican films of the past five years, “Amores Perros,” “The Crime of Father Amaro” and “Y tu mama tambien.” His charisma and acting chops are on display this year in two more critically acclaimed films: Walter Salles’ “The Motorcyle Diaries” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” which premiered at Cannes and debuts Stateside later this month.

Quote: Bernal first appeared onscreen as a child actor in a Mexican soap opera. “I never wanted to be an actor really. I wanted to act all my life, but I never wanted to be an actor.” He decided to pursue acting seriously after studying drama in London.

Working in and nurturing the Mexican film scene is an issue close to his heart. “It’s where I’m from and it’s the most immediate thing to do. It’s a place where I can have more freedom to play around. … Not only that, it’s my responsibility to help. It’s what keeps me alive in a sense. … If there wasn’t a challenge, then I wouldn’t be doing this, I would just be doing theater.”

To him, “Diaries” was more than a biopic about the young Che Guevara. “It’s a love story about loving the person that’s your neighbor; it’s a love story about loving the land and therefore loving oneself.”

What’s next: “Bad Education” opens Nov. 19.

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