Roberto Gavaldón
Roberto Gavaldón

The 67th edition of the San Sebastian Festival and Filmoteca Española will dedicate a retrospective to the Mexican director Roberto Gavaldón.

Roberto Gavaldón (1909-1986) is considered to have been one of Mexican cinema’s most important directors in the fifties and sixties. Born in Jiménez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, in 1909, he took his first steps in the medium working as an extra, actor, assistant director and scriptwriter. After a few jobs as co-director, he made his solo debut in 1945 with La barraca (The Shack), adaptation of the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, with a production team including several Spanish technicians who had gone into exile in Mexico after the Civil War.

For years he was the leading representative of his country’s cinema at the big international festivals. He competed several times in Cannes, Venice and Berlin, presenting Acuérdate de vivir at the first edition of the San Sebastian Festival in 1953. He won eight Ariel awards, the accolades given from 1947 by the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences: the first Ariel Award for best film went to La barraca.

Although he mainly cultivated melodrama, he touched on numerous genres including crime, musical, fantasy and rural drama, also producing a western series with Antonio Aguilar. Outstanding among his films are titles such as Macario, La otra (1946) – a criminal drama about twin sisters embodied by Dolores del Río, reproduced in a Hollywood remake starring Bette Davis, Dead Ringer (1964) – La diosa arrodillada (The Kneeling Goddess,1947), En la palma de tu mano (In the Palm of Your Hand,1951), La noche avanza (The Night Falls,1952) – starring an unscrupulous Basque pelota champion –, El rebozo de soledad (1952), El niño y la niebla (The Boy and the Fog,1953), Camelia (1954), Sombra verde (1954), La escondida (The Hidden One,1956) and Miércoles de ceniza (Ash Wednesday,1958). In 1955 he was chosen by the Disney studios to direct one of its productions filmed in Mexico, The Littlest Outlaw.

In the early sixties he turned his attention to other topics, revealing an obvious preference for social and political issues. However, Rosa blanca, about the expropriation of petrol in Mexico, was forbidden and had its release delayed until 1972. In Días de otoño, starring the same couple as Macario, Ignacio López Tarso and the actress discovered by Gavaldón, Pina Pellicer, narrates the dark tale of a woman abandoned by her fiancé who tells everyone she has married the man and is pregnant with his child. Next he collaborated with Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes on the screenplay of El gallo de oro (1964), a parable about a fighting cock according to a story by Juan Rulfo.

In the first half of the seventies he produced three films in Spain: Don Quijote cabalga de nuevo (Don Quixote Rides Again,1973), with Fernando Fernán Gómez and Cantinflas in the parts of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and two dramas starring Amparo Rivelles, La madrastra (1974) and La playa vacía (1977). He continued to work until 1979, when he directed his last film, Cuando tejen las arañas, a drama about a young girl and her sexual repression. He died in Mexico City in 1986.

Following its screening at the San Sebastian Festival, the retrospective, made up of some 25 titles, several of them restored by the Cineteca Nacional de México and by Filmoteca UNAM, will run at Filmoteca Española, in Madrid, during the months of October and November.

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