After directing the career-making drama Amores Perros, made on a shoestring budget in 2000, followed by the critically acclaimed 21 Grams in 2003, director Alejandro González Iñárritu is creating a legacy of superlative storytelling while filling theater seats.
And the native of Mexico has yet to reveal his last act. With his film Babel coming out this month, Mr. Iñárritu anticipates both the conclusion of his trilogy and some much-deserved rest.
"Babel is the last piece of the trilogy," Mr. Iñárritu says. "The three of them [films] are about families – local, foreign, global – all together telling a bigger story, with different perspectives."
Featuring Gael García Bernal, whose career was launched by Perros, and superstars Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett, Babel follows four different narratives, set on three continents. Each story emphasizes the importance of communication, and the sometimes-tragic consequences of its absence.
The film uses the multi-angle storytelling technique of his two previous films. This approach – imitated by others but never used as poignantly as in the introspective look at life in Mexico City as explored in the Oscar-nominated Perros – was developed through collaboration with writer and fellow Mexican Guillermo Arriaga.
"We share interest and visions about the world – we're from the same place," the director says.
The two have developed a close working and personal friendship, culminating in the three films – and some extensive phone bills (Mr. Arriaga is still based in Mexico).
"Filmmaking is done in stages: It's initially planning, dreaming how you're going to hunt the living animal," he says. "[Guillermo] is a very important collaborator in that first step."
And as for Mexico?
"Mexico is one country, [but] the culture is so diverse, so complicated," Mr. Iñárritu says. "Nowadays, the north part, the border is what really inspires me more. There is a scar there, and it is bleeding. Now that I'm here, it affects me more."
A self-made filmmaker, Mr. Iñárritu left a successful career in Mexican television production and advertising to create his first film. A move to the United States followed, and with it the challenge of a foreign-born Hispanic breaking into Hollywood.
The director says talent supersedes racial boundaries.
"There were stereotypes, but it's not what you are – Mexican or Latin, Greek or whatever. I think you have to make good work."
And Mr. Iñárritu says many Hispanic directors are making waves in Tinseltown.
"Yeah, I think the perception has changed – many directors are doing great films, and now [the industry] has sensitivity for what people want to say," he says. "Six years ago, Cannes didn't want to see my film [Amores Perros]. Now, they are awarding me Best Director."
After a break following the three-year marathon that became Babel, the director is eager to revisit his homeland.
"A quarter of [Babel] was shot in my country, in my culture, and based on the culture," he says. "I would like to have a story in my country again."
His creative inspiration is never far from his roots.
"I consider myself a privileged man," Mr. Iñárritu says. "I found complete independence and complete support [in the U.S.] – tools I needed to make these films. But, I haven't lost what I started doing in Mexico."
Babel will open in theaters November 17.
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