The three recipients of the Gothams’ inaugural World Cinema Tribute have firmly established themselves as world-class cinematic talents with a remarkable ability for getting personal films made within the American studio system. Collectively, the three old friends from Mexico are a force to be reckoned with, pushing each other creatively while also joining forces to ensure that the renaissance in Mexican cinema, which began with their early work, continues to thrive.
Born within three years of each other, Cuaron, del Toro and Gonzalez Inarritu shared a camaraderie long before they achieved early success with their respective debut features, “Love in the Time of Hysteria” (1991), “Cronos” (1993) and “Amores perros” (2000).
“We’re from middle-class families and from the same country, so we obviously have much in common in terms of our cultural background,” Gonzalez Inarritu says. “But we also have a very strong creative partnership. We all share in the development of our scripts, invite each other to the editing room. We have a very rigorous relationship as friends and creators.”
Despite the collaborative nature of their relationship, each director has found his voice through starkly different forms of cinematic expression. Del Toro has explored the boundaries of the fantasy/horror genre with films such as “Mimic,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Hellboy,” while Gonzalez Inarritu has focused exclusively on dark dramas with multiple storylines, including “21 Grams” (2003), which was nominated for two Academy Awards. Cuaron has worked in multiple genres at every level of production, from the low-budget indie hit “Y tu mama tambien” (2001) to studio tentpole movies such as “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004).
This year has shaped up as a banner one for all three helmers, with the release of del Toro’s Spanish-set World War II horror-fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Gonzalez Inarritu’s visceral, multicontinental drama “Babel” and Cuaron’s dystopian sci-fi actioner “Children of Men.”
“I consider our three films this year to be sister films,” Cuaron says. “They are so radically different in form, but dramatically they deal with the same subject matter, which is the struggle of communication between people. In many ways, I feel like we have all made the same film.”
“This Gotham Award isn’t just a prize for us three amigos, it’s an award to a cinema that has been struggling to keep an international presence in a very adversarial industry,” del Toro says. “These two are my friends, and we are very close. But I also admire the hell out of them. It’s an honor to call them my colleagues.”