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Hecho por México: The Films of Gabriel Figueroa

July 10, 2008 - August 9, 2008

The Pearl, July 10

Gabriel Figueroa was more than a cinematographer. A consummate artist, he captured with grandeur a sense of Mexico that would, as the poet Carlos Fuentes affectionately observed, bring us to “see Figueroa’s Mexico and not the one that really existed.” Beginning in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, Figueroa’s rich chiaroscuro embodied Mexico’s entrenched contrasts—the monumental faces weathered like the arid land, the expressively lit cathedrals dark against turbulent skies, the timeless agave, stark and prickly. The painters Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco were Figueroa’s intimates, and their influence can be detected in what Siqueiros called “murals that travel.” Figueroa was the man who made manifest Luis Buñuel’s sardonic surrealism by underscoring mundane but unexpected details. And he will forever be associated with director Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, who said with remarkable swagger, “There only exists one Mexico: the one I invented”—but it was Figueroa’s highly dramatic feel for the land that engendered this invention. In the mid-thirties, Figueroa apprenticed to Hollywood cinematographer Gregg Toland, and was much admired by American directors such as John Ford and John Huston, who used his signature style to great effect. He cut a dashing figure across the film industry, but his social conscience always preceded him: Gabriel Figueroa’s aim was to give back to Mexican culture a dignified image of itself, and this he did, a lo grande.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
6:30 p.m. Let’s Go with Pancho Villa!
The definitive film on the Mexican Revolution, directed by Fernando de Fuentes, is at once authentic, thrilling, affecting, and unsentimental.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
8:30 p.m. The Pearl
John Steinbeck’s adaptation of his beautiful short novel, directed by Emilio Fernández with unforgettable images by Gabriel Figueroa. Pedro Armendáriz stars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
7:30 p.m. The Saint That Forged a Country
Virtually unknown here, this film from 1942 spans three centuries to evoke the national significance of the Virgin of Guadalupe, “Mother of Mexico.” Ramon Novarro makes his only appearance in a Mexican film.

Saturday, July 19, 2008
6:30 p.m. A Woman in Love
This classic Fernández-Figueroa collaboration starring Pedro Armendáriz and María Félix marries the Revolution to The Taming of the Shrew.

Thursday, July 24, 2008
6:30 p.m. A New Dawn
Andrea Palma and Pedro Armendáriz star in a 1943 drama of labor solidarity and corruption couched in a stylish noir.

Thursday, July 24, 2008
8:40 p.m. Los olvidados
Gabriel Figueroa gave form to Luis Buñuel’s wicked humor in this unsentimental portrait of slum kids in Mexico City.

Saturday, July 26, 2008
6:30 p.m. Nazarín
Figueroa’s cinematography lends stark beauty to an unforgiving landscape in this Buñuel classic about a priest whose charity is his undoing.

Thursday, July 31, 2008
6:30 p.m. Days of Autumn
Days of Autumn is a real rediscovery, a Sirkian melodrama starring Pina Pellicer, “unforgettably touching.”—Tribeca Film Festival. Adapted from a B. Traven story.

Thursday, July 31, 2008
8:30 p.m. Macario
Also a Traven adaptation, this Day of the Dead fable blends traditional folktale with social satire as it follows a luckless woodcutter’s struggles.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008
6:30 p.m. Victims of Sin
Rumba dancer Ninón Sevilla plays an avenging angel in this camp musical/melodrama featuring intoxicating rhythms and cinematography.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008
8:10 p.m. The Fugitive
Henry Fonda and Dolores Del Rio in a John Ford classic, adapted from Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.

Saturday, August 9, 2008
8:30 p.m. The Night of the Iguana
Richard Burton shines in this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, into which director John Huston “injects his own sly humor.”—Time Out

Series curated by Steve Seid.

PFA wishes to thank José Manuel Garcia, Filmoteca de la UNAM; Televisa SA de CV; Fundación Televisa; IMCINE; and Centenario Gabriel Figueroa (Figueroa Family) for their contributions to this series.