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10 Directors to Watch: ‘Museo’ Auteur Alonso Ruizpalacios Leads New Wave of Mexican Talent

A couple decades behind Cuarón and del Toro, 40-year-old visionary finds himself at the forefront of the next generation of Mexican directors.

Alonso Ruizpalacios

A few years from now, there will no doubt be an official name for the explosion of talented Mexican directors breaking through on the international festival circuit — filmmakers a generation younger than such Nuevo Cine Mexicano pioneers as Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, but every bit as promising in the originality of their vision.

When that time comes, Ruizpalacios could well be their poster boy: a helmer who’s making headway both as an arthouse auteur — his first two features, “Güeros” and “Museo,” premiered at the Berlinale — and a sought-after television director in the U.S., where he spearheaded the “Vida” pilot for Starz and two episodes of “Narcos: Mexico.”

Ruizpalacios’ film work reflects a bold vision, informed by his background in acting and avant-garde theater. “Unlike all my peers in drama school, I went into acting with directing in mind,” explains Ruizpalacios, who studied under Mexico City stage guru Ludwik Margules before moving to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Whereas “Güeros” was a black-and-white road movie shot in the nearly square Academy ratio with unfamiliar actors, the wide­screen, hyper-visual heist film “Museo” stars Gael García Bernal. Early on, Ruizpalacios imagined “Museo” being “somewhere between ‘Rififi’ and ‘Home Alone’ and ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,’ ” blending sophisticated cultural critique with playful elements from the kind of 1980s Hollywood movies (e.g. “Goonies”) that made him want to be a director.

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Ruizpalacios is determined to be audacious — “I want to keep a foot in that weird place,” he says — but does so within a rigorous, well-planned framework. On his next film, he intends to spend a month in rehearsal with the actors, really getting to know the characters and devising new scenes together.

“In Mexico, I think we’re very lucky to work the way we do,” he says. “Almost all directors in Mexico have the respect of final cut … or else it’s not a work of art, it’s the opinion of a lot of people.”

Influences: Peter Brooks, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Abdellatif Kechiche
Agency: WME
Manager: Valor Entertainment Group