​Carlos Reygadas

Carlos Reygadas Castillo, Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS

BIOGRAPHY

Carlos Reygadas Castillo (b. 1971 in Mexico City) is a Mexican filmmaker. One of the most famous directors in Latin America, he has been named “as the one-man third wave of Mexican cinema.”[1]


Reygadas’ first feature film was Japón / ”Japan” (2002), which received a Special Mention for the Caméra d’Or prize at Cannes. In it, “Reygadas explores the harsh beauty of the Mexican country­side with earthy tactility, conjuring a psychic landscape where religion mingles with sex, life coexists with death, and the animal and spiritual sides of human experience become indistinguishable. A work of soaring ambition and startling visual poetry, Japón is an existential journey through uncharted cinematic territory that established the singular voice of its director.”[2]


His next feature film, Batalla en el Cielo / ”Battle in Heaven” (2005) competed for the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes and portrays a man who, together with his wife, has kidnapped a child that died in their custody. Also Stellet Licht / ”Silent Light” (2007), the Mexican submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 80th Academy Awards, competed for the Palme d’Or; it won him the Cannes Jury Prize and, in 2008, was presented in the course of a Reygadas retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Time Out describes the film as “a tragic drama of love, routine, adultery and God’s will that plays out in a community of Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites in rural Mexico and which owes a large debt to Antonioni and, more specifically, Dreyer.[…] Reygadas, again working with non-professionals, offers realism in front of the lens – the routines of eating, bathing and working are lent an extra fascination by the alien world of the Mennonites – and poetry within it. [3]


Post Tenebras Lux / ”Light After Darkness” won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. It received mixed reviews. “A semi-autobiographical film in the style of his idol Andrei Tarkovsky”, it was labeled “a confusing work in which past, present and fantasy alternate as the fractured narrative moves between the troubled life of Reygadas's alter ego with his wife and small children outside Mexico City, an orgiastic Turkish bath house somewhere on the Continent, and a rugby-playing public school in England he once attended”— to which Reygadas responded: “If you are going to be a slave of reality, you might as well not make films." [4]


Reygadas’ last film, Nuestro Tiempo / “Our Time” (2018) was nominated, among others, for the Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival. Casting himself and his wife, it is considered even more autobiographical: “What emerges from this cinematic experiment in auto-fiction is a soul-searching work of scorching honesty that functions both as an anatomy of love and marriage, and as an evisceration of masculinity.” [5]


Reygadas is the recipient of numerous awards; among them are the Silver Ariel at Ariel Awards Mexico (2008 and 2004), the Jury Award at Bergen International Film Festival (2007), the Gold Hugo at Chicago International Film Festival (2007), the Best Director Award at Cinemanila International Film Festival (2012), the New Director’s Award at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2002), the Coral at Havana Film Festival (2018), and the FIPRESCI prize at Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival (2007 and 2002).



[1] Paul Julian Smith, S&S November 2005, quoted at: http://old.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49593


[2] https://www.criterion.com/films/28770-jap-n


[3] https://www.timeout.com/london/film/silent-light-2007


[4] Review by Philip French, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/mar/24/post-tenebras-lux-review-french


[5] Giovanni Marchini Camia, “Our Time first look: Carlos Reygadas gores masculinity on its own horns” , https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/reviews-recommendations/our-time-nuestro-tiempo-carlos-reygadas-marriage-masculinity


Photo credit: Braulio Tenorio.