‘No conventional studio wanted my film,’ says Oscar winner Inarritu

PARIS

He was the first director in 60 years to win back-to-back Oscars, but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu said he’s still struggling to garner Hollywood interest in returning to Mexico with the new movie “Bardo.”

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“Birdman” and “The Revenant” won Inarritu an Oscar for best picture and two for best director in 2015 and 2016.

But only Netflix was interested in the sequel, meaning “Bardo” will only get a short theatrical run in select countries next month, before landing on the streaming service in December.

“This film was not wanted by any conventional studio,” Inarritu told AFP during a visit to Paris. It’s a personal movie, a movie in Spanish, a movie that doesn’t have big stars, and it’s a movie that…needed huge funding. Only Netflix dared to let me make this film with absolute freedom and financial support.

The dreamlike film follows a journalist, a barely fictionalized version of Inarritu himself, who returns to Mexico after finding success in the United States.

When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month, some critics felt the nearly three-hour film was, in The Guardian’s words, “outrageously narcissistic”.

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Inarritu didn’t take kindly to some of the criticism, especially the constant comparisons to Italian legend Federico Fellini (whose famous ‘8 1/2’ also focused on himself), who he says borders on ‘racism’ .

“Bardo is deeply Mexican,” he told AFP. “We have our own references, ancestral, of great richness and a very particular style.

“Fellini was handsome and tall, but as far as I know Fellini didn’t leave Rome, he was never an immigrant and he didn’t have any children. And my film is about fatherhood and immigrants. What does this have to do with ‘8 1/2’?

“Fuck – don’t we have our own filmmakers and our own literature? Our own imagination?

But Inarritu seems to agree with critics who felt the original cut was too long, having now cut the running time by 20 minutes.

He insists it was not a response to criticism, however.

“A lot of the visual effects came in very late…I finished the film literally two days before I left for Venice, and the first time I saw it in front of an audience was in Venice with 2,000 people,” he said.

“[During the screening] I realized there were opportunities to get to the point a little faster in some scenes.

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“Bardo” is Mexico’s official entry for the Oscars, hoping for more from the country’s huge success in the 2010s.

Alfonso Cuaron also won two directing Oscars (for ‘Gravity’ and ‘Roma’), while Guillermo Del Toro won best picture and best director for ‘The Shape of Water’.

But there is still a long way to go to correct the cultural knowledge imbalance between the two countries, Inarritu said.

“I have a total knowledge of American literature, history and music. But the vast majority (of Americans) don’t know our culture, our history. They don’t even know about the (American) invasion of Mexico” in 1846, he says.

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“Bardo” is an attempt to discuss the strange relationship between the two nations. “There are no countries more different than the United States and Mexico,” he said, as well as California’s Spanish heritage with its millions of Hispanic immigrants.

“At my age (59), you had to try to put these contradictory things in order…to be able to learn from them,” Inarritu said.

“It’s been brewing for a long time and only now have I had the courage, the ability and the freedom to talk about it the way I did.”

About Herbert L. Leonard

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