Mi Amigo Alfonso Cuarón

03/04/2014 06:08 pm ET | Updated Dec 01, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alejandro González Iñárritu is a film director who has directed films such as "Amores Perros" (2000), "21 Grams" (2003) and "Biutiful" (2010). This was first published in "El Pais," the Spanish daily.

On March 2, 2014 Cuarón took home the Academy Award for Best Directing for his film "Gravity" (2013).

Alfonso Cuarón is a great director. But he is an even better friend.

Alfonso Cuarón is an extraordinary filmmaker. But he is an even better dad.

Alfonso Cuarón is a great artist. But he is an even greater human being.

While nearly all of us agree on the first declarations because we have seen his varied and eclectic work, I want to reveal something about the other side of the artist: the Alfonso Cuarón I have been fortunate enough to know and with whom I have shared more than 20 years of friendship.

These human qualities, which do not easily occur in the life of any man, are even more difficult to sustain under the pressure involved in making a film such as "Gravity."

Given its success, it is easy for many to think that this trip into space was pleasant.
Nothing is further from the truth.

Alfonso's harsh family and personal and professional circumstances were very similar to those of that woman in space.

Physical and metaphysical garbage, waste from fear, greed, ignorance -- and many of those elements of the sublime and putrid within the film industry lined up like missiles that hit his ship.

Given such circumstances, and after "Children of Men," Alfonso, the man, devoted himself and his life to his children.

The most remarkable of these eight years is not the result, but rather the height and human condition, with which he followed his path.

While everyone's life is and will be constantly struck by karmic garbage, not everyone has the skill or practice of conscience to respond, thus avoiding the need to abort the mission: getting lost in a black hole, or activating the self-destruct button built into the panic, victimization and resentment panel.

In fact, a week before the premiere, a significant number of investors sold a high percentage of the film to save themselves from the catastrophe they saw coming.

Fear, which is nothing other than ignorance, reigns in an industry taken by corporate conglomerates, Wall Street, and the accountants who handle millions of dollars of investment funds and whose purpose (to not speak of principles) is not to make movies, or much less art, but rather to make a shitload of fast, easy and risk-free money.

But filmmaking is not about having money, but rather, having a vision.

In other words, Alfonso and his ship were in space and adrift, abandoned by NASA.

Filmmaking is not about having money, but rather, having a vision.

Faced with extremely adverse circumstances, and sometimes without oxygen, Alfonso always reasoned and acted under higher principles.

Confronted with limitations, creativity. Confronted with rejection or doubt, dignity and confidence.

I know this, because one day before the world premiere of "Gravity," we dined together at an expensive Japanese and vegetarian restaurant in Manhattan, and I paid the bill, just in case.

Beyond the extraordinary mastery of his art and craft, what makes Alfonso a great director is that sustained vision of his (stubborn, but not foolish), subject to a deep spirituality and a curious, provocative and restless intellect. I have never met a tongue sharper than his!

While discussing, criticizing and/or praising the formal merits of his work is already obvious, I think it important to note that Alfonso, like many other great Mexican directors (Reygadas, Del Toro, Escalante, Eimbcke, Naranjo, etc.), is one of the greats not because of what one sees on screen, but because of that which is unseen and that which few know about; not because of the awards he has received and will receive, from the Golden Potato in one of those 3,000 festivals across the world, to the much loved while also hated Oscars; but rather, because of his amazing dare to explore, innovate, push the boundaries, and -- as my dear friend Eliseo Alberto Lichi used to say, "defending to death the right to fail"-- risking everything.

The commercial success, coupled with the almost unanimous recognition of critics across the globe, is a cosmic reward.

Those were the words I said to Alfonso when seeing how the ship in which he had worked for so many years, with all its faults and despite much adversity, miraculously traveled through space.

If cinema is illusion, and from its birth it is linked to magic, then the visual and sensory experience Alfonso and Emmanuel "El Chivo" Lubezki achieved in the first 30 minutes of Gravity equate to that first image of the train by the Lumiere brothers that so greatly impacted the first audience in the theater, even making them flee.

Now, after humorously surviving his return to Earth: six months for promotional exploitation by both the tabloid industry and the Award system (the most exhausting, absurd, and dangerous stage of the voyage, in which many crash or blow themselves up in the flames of their own gasoline-drenched egos), Alfonso landed in the desert of Los Angeles.

Like Dr. Stone, he once again set foot in the vast wasteland of the Kodak Theatre and entered into the Hollywood jungle, where the writer/director is already an endangered species.

Alfonso is a great director. But he is an even better teacher.

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