Retrospective – The importance of Gael Garcia Bernal to the renaissance of Mexican cinema


The historical timeline of Mexican film and cinema can be traced back to the start of the 20th Century. However only until the 1940’s was the potential of Mexican cinema truly embraced. Mexico itself began to dominate a large majority of Latin cinema and did not have to battle with Hollywood as it was a different language and culture all together. How ever the film industry machine remained similar, as does Nollywood and Bollywood. It created stars out of actors and actresses. Sara Garcia was considered by many as the “Grandmother of Mexico”, due to her very successful acting career which started in the silent film era and ending in the new film world of ‘talkies’. During the 1960’s and 1970’s horror and action films reigned the screens. More recently various film starring Gael Garcia Bernal have enjoyed both critical acclaim as well as audience popularity. These include the well documented and recognisable films such as ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ (2004) as well as famous Latin director Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Bad Education’ (2004). Bernal was born in 1978 in Guadajara, Jalisco. He was a keen child actor who moved onto spend most of his roles as a teenager in television soap operas. Eventually he came to London to study acting at the Central School of speech and drama in London. He was lucky enough to be already receiving attention for his first major role in ‘Amores Perros’ (2000) where he played a poverty stricken Mexican thug in love with his brother’s wife. Hollywood began to become increasingly interested in his work as an actor.

It could easily be argued that this renewed attention to Latin and Mexican Cinema came around the exact time Gael Garcia Bernal rose to the forefront as an actor. The film industry is visual by actual camera and medium and him being handsome with real potential talent, his success was noticed. This is shallow but unfortunately as the studios spend so much money on what people like to view as escapism it is easy for them to bet on the reliable. This is now changing with many ethnic, LGBT, age ranging, body shapes finally being seen in mainstream film and television. This makes cinema more relate-able in fact with no pedestal. 


Although he became a rising international star after ‘Amores Perros’ was released, he chose to continue his growing career in his native land of Latin America. Hollywood and the international film world wanted to know about his future film projects. they began to keep a close eye on the Latin/Mexican film industry. Bernal continued to accept challenging roles in films showing diverse range from priests to amazing drag-queens.

It was to be his portrayal of a young Che Guevara cemented him as a star and actor with real substance. The film was an international co-production between companies in Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Peru, The United Kingdom and The United States. In it’s simplest form ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’depicts the early part of Che Guevara’s life bored he became a political revolutionary. Guevara sees both physically and metaphorically the division of society between the people and the rulers. These encounters with injustice change the way Guevara sees the world and by implication motivate his later political activities. 

Most critics in a large part were pleased with the biographical, praising Walter Salles vision as a director and Bernal’s performance. The film won many awards no doubt giving it immense commercial promotion and status before even released. This is now often seen with current films such as ‘La La Land’ however rarely with non English speaking international cinema. It was a good way to bring attention to global cinema being as important as Hollywood cinematic drama about everyone.

Von Von Lamunu





One comment

  1. Hanzalah Shahid

    An actor whose smile cherish you with fragrance!!!
    An actor whose craziness feels you weird!!!
    An actor whose performances remain active!!!
    Babel, Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mamaa Tambieen…

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