Alejandro González Iñárritu may have become a filmmaker adored and loved by Hollywood over the past few years, but his work continues to constantly evoke the kinetic energy of his home town, Mexico City. Imbuing a technical prowess that is largely incomparable and juggling large, sweeping themes such as fate and interconnected tales of happenstance, it’s no surprise that Iñárritu is only the third director to win back to back Academy Awards (for Best Director) and the first since 1950.
Born in 1964 in Mexico City, Iñárritu was the youngest of seven children. As a teenager, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a cargo ship and worked his way across Europe and Africa. This period in his life greatly shaped him as a filmmaker and the places he travelled to have often been the setting of his features. In 1984, he began his career as a radio DJ at the Mexican radio station WFM before going on to become station director. His time at the radio station was noted for his innovative contributions that pushed the creative boundaries of the outlet, including writing and broadcasting small audio stories and storytelling promos. In the late 80s, he acted as the music composer on six Mexican feature films and became acquainted with Guillermo Arriaga. This would be the beginning of their screenwriting collaboration and their first partnership came in 2000 with Amores Perros, produced under Iñárritu’s production company Z Films.
The film was the first instalment of Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death” and was also the first to feature intertwining stories. Upon its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Critics’ Week Grand Prize and was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His next two features, 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006) were both English language films and boasted mega-watt ensembles including the likes of Naomi Watts, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. One of the most remarkable critical plaudits for Iñárritu’s films is Javier Bardem’s Academy Award nomination for Biutiful (2010); it is the first time that an actor has been nominated for a role in which he speaks entirely in Spanish. However, he would later achieve an even more astonishing feat with Birdman (2014), a film that looks like it was shot in one long, continuous take. The creative choice proved to be extremely demanding in the post-production process, “Normally, I can count on six months of a luxurious, rational process in the editing room, manipulating, polishing or hiding my shit,” says Iñárritu. “But I couldn’t do that here.” Iñárritu has said that his experience on Birdman changed him forever, “I learned that from now on, I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t scare me. It pushes you to the edge of your safety net, and it made you feel more alive.”
Like many of his peers and industry contemporaries, Iñárritu is moving into television for his next project. The One Percent is an upcoming American television drama series created and written by Iñárritu, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Nicolas Giacobone and Armando Bo. The fiercely talented foursome collaborated together on Birdman and will also serve as the show’s executive producers, with Iñárritu directing the first two episodes to establish the series’ tone and aesthetic. The director has also reunited with acclaimed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on Carne y Arena (Virtually present, Physically invisible), a virtual reality installation. The project received a special award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2017, with AMPAS president John Bailey stating that it “opened for us new doors of cinematic perception” and that “more than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the US-Mexico border.” From radio to film to virtual reality – it seems that there is no medium that Alejandro G. Iñárritu cannot master.
- Amores Perros (2000)
- 21 Grams (2003)
- Babel (2006)
- Biutiful (2010)
- Birdman (2014)
- The Revenant (2015)
By Evie Brudenall