Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and I both happened to be waiting for our luggage at LAX after arriving on the charter from the Telluride Film Festival Monday night. He turned to me and said he had been thinking about the interview we did the day before. His powerful film, Biutiful, was playing all weekend at the fest and we had sat down to talk Sunday about the film, about the sad state of the movie industry, and about why it took so long for a U.S. distributor to pick it up after its Cannes premiere. He told me that because of this conversation, which he said was like “therapy”, he now thinks of Biutiful as an “act of resistance” against everything that is wrong with the movie industry today. The film dealing with a father’s descent into the abyss and journey towards redemption won Best Actor for star Javier Bardem. and now continues on the fest circuit with its official North American premiere tonight in Toronto. Only recently did it finally score a U.S. distribution deal (after several rejections) with Roadside Attractions and will open just in the nick of time for Oscar consideration on December 29th. Some American press in particular have complained that the film was too dark and depressing to find an audience. Others have raved.
Whatever the reaction, Inarritu thinks the festival and awards circuit is crucial for Biutiful’s ultimate success. “For this film literally it’s a matter of life or death,” he said pointing to the lack of choices he had in even getting the film released this year. “There are very few independent distributors. Very few. It’s getting tough. This film is very fragile, it’s very delicate. One wrong message when we are competing with such big films and… I’m talking about the fact that it was this close to the film not even being distributed at all. Thanks to Roadside, I think they were very brave. The entire world was sold immediately but not the U.S. That was very shocking. Normally it was the U.S. leading the way and the other ones were the followers. Now you open it everywhere and then the U.S. watches what happens. This country is importing fewer foreign films or films that are interested in our society.”
Although it will be eligible in all categories for Oscar, the director is hoping it will also be the official foreign language film nominee from Mexico, even though it was shot in Spain. (more…)