Thursday, May 5, 2016


By José Alberto Hermosillo

In the World of Superheroes, Gael Garcia Bernal has not played one yet. A Hollywood blockbuster wasn't on the Mexican-born actor's radar until the recent announcement of his playing Zorro in the new Zorro movie "Z."


The charismatic star of "Mozart in the Jungle" has performed in more than 40 features and produced about a dozen other great films, inspiring thousands of fans and followers Worldwide. 

I met Gael at the Vanity Fair after-party of the Academy Awards, 2005. That year, it was one of the most diverse ceremonies ever.

That night's champion was "Million Dollar Baby." The story of a woman boxer won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Supporting Actor Morgan Freeman.  

At that time, a sense of unity and diversity was in the air. Jamie Foxx won Best Actor for "Ray." Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated for Best Actress for "Maria Full of Grace." She holds the Latino representation high. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo were up for Best Actor and Supporting Actress for "Hotel Rwanda."

Spain won Best Foreign Film for "The Sea Inside" with Javier Bardem. 

The story of children overcoming adversity through photography in India, "Born into Brothels," won the best documentary. 

And the movie in which Gael Garcia Bernal portrayed a young Argentinean Ernesto "Che" Guevara, "The Motorcycle Diaries," took home the best original song award: "Al otro lado del río" composed by Jorge Drexler from Uruguay. It was the first and the only time in history that a song in Spanish won an Oscar®.

When Prince announced the Uruguayan singer-composer as the winner, instead of giving a traditional speech, Jorge sang the song "a cappella."

Before the Oscar® show, producers had sparked a controversy by hiring Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana to sing "The Motorcycle Diaries" song during the broadcast, arguing the lack of notoriety of the original singer.

On that night, at the party, I spotted Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna standing in a corner near the entrance. I took advantage of the moment to speak with Gael, and I proudly said: "Congratulations, your movie won the Oscar® for best song."

Gael, enormously happy, said: "Did you see? Did you see it? He sang the song! He sang the song!" And he hugged me, making me feel like a real "Charolastra" (buddies from "Y tú mamá también").

Oscars. Photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo © 2016

Two years before, in 2003, during the Second Iraq War, hundreds of activists were protesting the war outside the Kodak Theater before the Oscar® show. 

That night, Gael presented the nominated song "Burn it Blue" from "Frida." The film, starring and produced by Salma Hayek, had five Oscar nominations. Gael made an uncomfortable denotation in his speech, showing support for the street demonstrators: "If Frida Kahlo were still alive, she would be outside with the people protesting against the war," he said.

I also told Gael at the party: "That was a great speech!" He replied: "After that, the Academy will never invite me again." I told him: "Do not worry, they will," replied. 

Eleven years later, the Academy invited him to become a new member.

The star of "Y tu mamá también" is a worldwide established actor who had said "No" to Hollywood.

Garcia Bernal is a man of integrity and doesn't want to be "leveled." He doesn't want to portray a stereotyped character, like the ones Hollywood loves to give to Latino and other minority actors: the bad guys, housekeepers, gardeners, cooks, busboys, drivers, murderers, rapists, and drug dealers.   

(l.) Anthony Quinn (r.) Ricardo Montalban

Other legendary Mexican actors who stood against Hollywood stereotypes were Anthony Quinn and Ricardo Montalban.

María Félix

In the 1950s, the most fabulous Diva of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, Maria Felix, also said "No" to Hollywood. She firmly believed: "Why should I play a peasant in Hollywood when I portray a Queen in other countries?"


As a producer, Gael worked on a beautiful "Cochochi" documentary and in the acclaimed Mexican independent production "Güeros." 

He also produced the international film festival sensation "Las Elegidas/The Chosen Ones," directed by David Pablos (2015), available on Netflix worldwide. 

Time magazine named Gael Garcia Bernal one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2016.

Deeply moved by the immigrants' suffering journey to the USA, he took first-hand a trip from Central America up to the North in the documentary "Who Is Dayani Cristal?" (2013). 

Déficit - Cannes 2008 Premiere
Déficit premiering in Cannes 2008. © Photo by Alexandros Romanos Lizardos, Greece

Garcia Bernal directed "Déficit," his first film premiered at Cannes in 2008.

Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Producer Pablo Cruz founded Canana Films.

Canana is producing projects that skyrocket the careers of other directors, such as the Japanese-American Cary Joji Fukunaga, "Sin Nombre" (2009), who went on to direct last year's acclaimed hit: "Beasts of No Nation." He is doing the James Bond multi-million production "No Time to Die."

Miss Bala, Hollywood premiere, AFI FEST 2012
Miss Bala, Hollywood premiere, AFI FEST 2012, photo by Jose A Hermosillo © 2013
Gael also produced Gerardo Naranjo's Mexican Foreign Language Oscar® submission, "Miss Bala," in 2011. 
Neruda review
"Neruda" with Gael Garcia Bernal, 2016

Garcia Bernal has been a big supporter of other directors like Pablo Larrain. They worked together in the Oscar® nominated political film "No.

The Chilean director premiered at Cannes "Neruda" with rave reviews this year. The Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda's biopic, also includes Gael Garcia Bernal in the cast. 

Bernal, Luna, and Cruz founded Ambulante, a film festival focusing on documentaries. The festival travels from town to town, connecting audiences that usually don't go to a movie theater to watch a documentary or documentaries that are not showing in movie theaters. 

Ambulante California - Photo Jose Alberto Hermosillo © 2016

The Ambulante Documentary Film Festival screens movies in plazas and streets in the many States of Mexico. Ambulante California used to travel to different locations in the Los Angeles area, like the beautiful screening next to the Los Angeles River we had a few weeks ago.

The star of "Amores Perros" has worked with some of the best directors in the World, including the Oscar® winners: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Pedro Almodóvar.  

Gael Garcia Bernal with his Golden Globe

This year, Gael has five new projects shot in different countries, "Desierto," the closing film of the Los Angeles Film Festival, was shot at the Mexico/USA border. Premiering in Cannes 2016, "Neruda" was shot in Chile. The French production "Eva Doesn't Sleep" was shot in Argentina and had its L.A. Premiere at COLCOA. "Salt and Fire" was directed by Werner Herzog and co-produced by France, Germany, the USA, and Mexico. Finally, "You are Killing Me Susana/Me estás matando Susana" was shot in Mexico and Canada.

As I mentioned earlier, Garcia Bernal was just announced for the new Jonás Cuarón futuristic version of "El Zorro."


The Mexican actor is breaking borders, barriers, languages, accents, and stereotypes to become the international star he is now.

The potential of this gifted actor is enormous, and his best movie is still yet to come to fruition.

And the best works Gael Garcia Bernal has done so far:
1.   The Science of Sleep
(France, Italy), 
Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

"The Science of Sleep" is a stylish film with drama and comedy in a fantasy world. This movie is considered one of the best romantic and magical stories in modern times.

Garcia Bernal's intensity goes beyond craziness while trying to conquer his eccentric neighbor, Charlotte Gainsbourg (Nymphomaniac I, II), escaping to a bizarre world of dreams. 


2. The Motorcycle Diaries
(Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, USA, UK, Germany, France), 
Director: Walter Salles (Central Station).

The Oscar® winner for Best Original Song; narrates the 1952 epic trip of a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his best friend Dr. Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) on a motorcycle journey from Buenos Aires to Venezuela, throughout the Andes and the Amazons, showing the difficulties, poverty, and suffering of the Latin-American people, enduring and shaping the spirit of a revolutionary leader.

3. The Crime of Father Amaro/
El crimen del padre Amaro
Director: Carlos Carrera (El héroe, short).
Padre Amaro was a character-driven, controversial, uneasy film. Nominated Oscar® for Best Foreign Film, the Mexican production chronicles the experience of Padre Amaro as a young priest sent to a rural parish in Los Reyes, Mexico, where he is tempted by the sins of the flesh and the corruption of the religious and political elites.

4. The King 
Director: James Marsh (The Theory of Everything).
A gripping story of a young U.S. naval officer searching for his father to discover that he has become a pastor with his own family. "The King" is one of Gael's most unknown projects and one of his best performances.
5. Amores Perros 
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman).
The Oscar® nominated Best Foreign Film is the story that gave Gael his first Ariel (Mexican Oscar®) win for the best actor. He is Octavio in one of the three interconnected stories emanating from a terrible car accident. This essential and highly acclaimed film by critics was the one that made Gael Garcia Bernal become an international star.
6. Y tú mamá también 
Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma).

A controversial, sexual, poignant, coming-of-age road movie with some melodrama in it. The film has plenty of social and political references. In there, two best friends, Julio and Tenoch (Gael Garcia and Diego Luna), escape on a summer road trip with Tenoch's cousin's beautiful and mysterious wife (Maribel Verdu). This bromance Oscar® nominated for Best Original Screenplay has become essential in the process of maturity and, above all, life.

7. Bad Education 
Director: Pedro Almodóvar (Pain and Glory).

It was not easy for two friends to grow up under the discipline of a Christian school and under Father Manolo's hand. They discovered movies, love, and fear. Twenty years later, the three characters reunite under different circumstances. Love, cross-dressing, passion, jealousy, and revenge are the characteristics of this noir Almodovar film, with the extraordinary performance of Gael Garcia, who plays three different characters, including a transgender person who sings like Sarita Montiel. 
8. No
Director: Pablo Larraín (Jackie, Tony Manero).
The film is about one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history to support the 1988 referendum to stop the re-election of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Gael Garcia plays Rene Saavedra, a graphic designer with new ideas that will revolutionize the election with the NO option and challenge once and for all potential voters with an optimistic message. "No" was nominated for an Oscar® and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2012.  

9. Dot to the I
(UK, Spain, and the USA), 
Director: Matthew Parkhill (The Caller).
Carmen is about to be married to Barnaby, a wealthy and dull British boy. While celebrating a lady's night out, Carmen meets an unfamiliar person who rocks her World. As her wedding day approaches, she feels the need to be with this stranger that substantially affects her. This was Gael's first movie in English, and they did well in independent circuit theaters.
10. Babel
(France, USA, Mexico),
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman).
An epic film of four interconnected stories in five different countries departing from a gunshot in Morocco, hitting the parents (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) of two children who were taken by their nanny (Adriana Barraza) and her nephew (Gael Garcia) for her son's wedding, from San Diego, California to Tijuana, Mexico. On their way back from Mexico, they were questioned at the border and fled into the dangers of the night in the desert.

At the same time, in Japan, the gun's owner was found to be a hunter (Koji Yakusho) with a deaf teenage daughter (Rinko Kikuchi). "Babel" got multiple Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture. 

 11. Monmouth

(Sweden, Denmark, and Germany), 
Director: Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best).

Bernal plays Leo Vidales, a successful New Yorker who is back from Thailand to his wife Ellen Vidales, Michelle Williams ("Birdman"), a surgeon in the E.R. Soon, Leo has to go to Singapore on a business trip to close this big contract in Bangkok, where he meets a young prostitute for a one night stand. 

His wife, Ellen, faces a dilemma about her professional life or what she needs at home. Her daughter is more attached to her Filipino nanny (Marife Necesito), who is also missed by her children back in the Philippines. 

This film is about modern life, personal business, the Internet, family, and self-realization.
12. Blindness
(Canada, Brazil, and Japan), 
Director: Fernando Meirelles (the City of God, The Constant Gardener, The Two Popes).
Based on a novel by José Saramago (Nobel Prize winner) about an epidemic that plagued the World with "white blindness." The authorities quarantine the first people with the strange sickness in a mental facility with no food or water; people get crazy and turn into barbarians. 

Julianne Moore is a woman who becomes the leader. Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Danny Glover, and Gael Garcia complete the terrific cast of this apocalyptic movie.  

13. Rosewater
Directed: Jon Stewart (Irresistible).
Canadian Journalist Maziar Bahari was detained and brutally interrogated for 118 days in Iran. The only memory he has is the smell of the rose water aroma of his captor.

First-time Jon Steward was brave enough to cast the Mexican actor as a Middle Eastern, regardless of the backlash of the Middle Eastern community, who saw this as an insult for not releasing a Middle Eastern actor.

Gael Garcia does a terrific job portraying the journalist who gets confused for a CIA Spy. This is a true story of human suffering in a chaotic world.
14.  Even the Rain
(Spain, Mexico, and France), 
Director: Iciar Bollain (Te doy mis ojos/Take My Eyes, Rosa's Wedding).
The script by Paul Laverty ("Cargo," "The Wind that Shakes the Barley") is set in Cochabamba, Bolivia, about a film crew and its director (Gael Garcia Bernal) shooting a time-period movie of Christopher Columbus and his encounters with the natives.

The Spanish Oscar® submission in 2011 juxtaposes the symbolism of the Spanish Conquest and the recent impositions of the corporations fighting against the inhabitants for their right to own the water supply that the mining company wants to take away from them. 
15. The Loneliest Planet
(USA, Germany), 
Director: Julia Loktev (Day Night, Day Night).
This is one of Gael's most underrated films. Many viewers found it beautiful and annoying simultaneously because of its slow pace, while critics analyzed the relations and difficulties between a man and a woman and its further complications.

This could also be considered one of the best hiker movies, while the engaged couple is lost. The trip is a metaphor and a catharsis about emotions, feelings, and true love.
16.  Ardor
(Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, France, USA, Spain), 
Director: Pablo Fendrick (The Mugger/El Asaltante).
The price of the land in the Amazon jungle is paid in blood by the natives against the expanding multinational corporations.

Gael Garcia plays the mystic hero Kai, who lives in the jungle. He will cross paths with an exuberant woman in danger, played by Alice Braga ("I'm Legend"), the daughter of a poor farmer who stands up against a band of mercenaries who want to own the land.

17.  Private Lives
Vidas privadas. (Argentina, Spain), 
Fito Páez (¿De quiés es el portaligas?).
Incest is shown as a metaphor for psychological, sexual, and political repression.

Cecilia Roth ("All About My Mother") is Carmen Uranga, a 42-year-old who returns to Argentina from exile. Her memories of torture are back, and she was one of the thousands of victims of the dictatorship. When she meets Gustavo "Gana" Bertolini (Gael Garcia Bernal), they fall for each other - without knowing that she is his mother in real life. 

"Private Lives" is an extraordinary film by musician/filmmaker Fito Páez that will shock you to the bone. 
18.  Rudo y Cursi
(Mexico, USA), 
Director: Carlos Cuarón (Besos de azúcar/Sugar Kisses).
The long-awaited re-encounter on the big screen of the actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia after "Y tú mamá también" crystallized in "Rudo y Cursi." In this sports movie, the actors play two brothers who love soccer and play in their small village. One is the goalie, and the other is the scorer. Destiny will turn their life around when an Argentinean recruiter sees their abilities and hires them. They painfully discover the business of professional soccer is dirty and expensive. Agents, betters, trainers, and even the Narcos gamble with the players' scores and lives.

Gael's character wants to succeed in the music business and makes a flashy music video, a comical but catchy song. 

The film got mixed reviews because people were expecting more from the Academy nominee director (best original screenplay), who finishes the story on a smooth and sour note.
19. Don't Tempt Me
Nobody Will Speak of Us When We're Dead
(Spain, France, Italy, Mexico), 
Director: Agustín Días Yanes (Alatriste, Sin Noticias de Dios). 
"Sin Noticias de Dios" was the original title of this complex movie about people in heaven, hell, and earth. The angels in heaven speak French, the evil forces in hell speak English, and ordinary people on earth speak Spanish.

This is an original, quirky film with a good sense of humor. The magnificent ensemble cast includes Victoria Abril, Penelope Cruz, Demian Bichir, Fanny Ardant, Luis Tosar, and Gael Garcia Bernal.

20.  De tripas Corazón
Short film. (Mexico), 
Antonio Urrutia (Asesino en Serio/I Murder Seriously).
Gael Garcia Bernal's first kiss on the screen, in 1996 with Elpidia Carrillo.

A beautiful coming-of-age Oscar® nominated short film about a curious milk boy (Gael Garcia Bernal) who wants to have sex for the first time. The milk boy and his friends are infatuated with the beautiful Reyna, the most gorgeous call girl in town, played by Elpidia Carrillo ("Bread and Roses"). It's all about the first-time experience. 

This short marks Gael's first kiss in the movie.

"De tripas Corazón" was Gael's extraordinary debut on the silver screen for a young actor with all the intensity, charisma, and rebel spirit. The short film quality reached an Oscar® nomination and introduced Gael Garcia Bernal's professional career to stardom. The coming-of-age story is worth your time to see it.

I hope you enjoy the trajectory of the Mexican Star, which chooses its projects intelligently. 


Copyrights © 2016 Festival in LA


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