Story Behind Guillermo Arriaga's Fight With Alejandro González Iñárritu

September 1, 2008
Source: The Guardian

Guillermo Arriaga

I typically stay away from Hollywood gossip and fights, but this is an interesting story that leads into Guillermo Arriaga's directorial debut at Toronto. Arriaga, the screenwriter behind Babel, was banned from Cannes during Babel's debut due to a "fight" between him and the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Now he's heading to Toronto with a film he wrote and directed on his own, titled The Burning Plain, starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger. The Guardian has an interesting article looking at the past and present - the story behind his tussle with Iñárritu as well as the idea for his film which has been getting great early buzz. I thought this story would be a great Labor Day read to feature today.

Arriaga and Iñárritu have worked together on three Mexican films: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. Initially friends, the two "began falling out after Iñárritu felt Arriaga was taking too much credit." Arriaga was banned from the sets and told to stay away from Cannes during the shooting of Babel. Just before the Oscars, Iñárritu published an open letter in a Mexican magazine and wrote that Arriaga had an "unjustified obsession with claiming the sole authorship of a film," adding that "you were not - and you have never allowed yourself to feel part of this team." As time has past, the two have come to settle their issues and today Arriaga can happily say that "we made three beautiful films we both are very proud of."

Arriaga's latest film, The Burning Plain, features multiple storylines and intertwined relationships, like most of his films before. Charlize Theron stars as an emotionally bruised restaurant manager and Kim Basinger stars as a mother of four children embarking on an extramarital affair. Arriaga explains: "I've always been driven to the desert, I think the landscape itself influences people. This movie was based on the four elements, water, earth, wind and fire and using them I wanted to explore why sometimes people are damaged." As for the narrative style, Arriaga deconstructs storytelling. "We never tell stories in a linear way, we always tell them in a decomposed way. If you ask how did I become a director, I will not begin at the beginning, I will talk about my grandfather, my trip to Italy and so on. That's the way we tell stories in real life."

While not all of the reviews from Venice have been overly positive, most of them do highlight the better aspects of Arriaga's film. From Deborah Young at Hollywood Reporter: "Among Arriaga's strong points is his exceptional feel for placing characters in a landscape that is at once physical and symbolic," and that it is "an ambitious, visually handsome production." After this back story on Arriaga which directly leads in to this film, I'm quite interested in catching it myself. I just hope it holds up as well as Babel, a film I truly loved. The fight between Arriaga and Iñárritu doesn't really interest me beyond the basic details, but hearing the story and seeing that the two can still progress forward on their own as filmmakers is at least hopeful. I'll be sure to report back on my thoughts on The Burning Plain once I catch it up in Toronto.

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I'm Mexican and i can say that i have seen amores perros and 21 grams the two better films the duo made, about babel i did not see it because it's the SAME FRIGGIN' THING, c'mon how long until someone notices that the "3 stories that intertwine" formula is used the same way in all of Arriaga's films. it's basically the same movie over and over and over again, with detail changes and some bull***** about significance of the environment. please don't praise a writer that uses the same script over and over. if you want to praise Mexican film talent, please just look at some of our directors or the other Cuaron brother but please do not praise a guy that has lived off the same script since 1999.

andres camara on Sep 1, 2008


You sound a little confused, Andres.  How can you say, "i have seen amores perros and 21 grams the two better films the duo made" when they only made three and you haven't seen Babel, so how do you know Amores Perros and 21 Grams are "better"?  Then you say "about babel i did not see it because it's the SAME FRIGGIN' THING".  How do you know it's the same if you haven't seen it?  To be frank, Andres, you come across as a friend of the director.  I notice you don't put shit on him.  For the record, Arriaga is a genius and your assessment sucks.

Mulgawire on Apr 11, 2012


Guillermo del Toro is where it's at. I agree Inarritu's films are really well done, albeit a bit formulaic. I even think Cuaron is a better director, can't wait to see his Mexico '68.

Rafael28 on Sep 29, 2008


need help to find Guillermo Arriaga TP or email

Guest on Jun 11, 2012

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