Drug-war film won’t compete for Mexico in next Academy Awards

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Mexico did not submit the controversial and politically charged box-office hit ‘El Infierno’ for the next Academy Awards in the United States, choosing instead a film starring Javier Bardem as its official submission. The Academy of Film Arts and Sciences in Mexico selected ‘Biutiful,’ directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, to compete in the foreign-language film category in the 2011 Oscars.

But Mexico’s film academy did choose ‘El Infierno,’ directed by Luis Estrada, to compete for Mexico in Spain’s Goya awards.

Estrada, in fact, declined to have his film considered for the Oscars, he said in an interview in the daily Milenio (link in Spanish.) In the same interview, Estrada called it a ‘white-gloved slap in the face’ that Mexico’s government gave his film its strictest audience rating, preventing anyone younger than 18 to see it in theaters. (‘But I do know the film has had enormous success, especially in pirated form,’ the filmmaker added.)

‘El Infierno’ sparked controversy in Mexico for its bleak and brutal depiction of the country’s drug war, as Tracy Wilkinson writes in a recent feature story on director Estrada. ‘Mexicans have become the victims and the executioners, all at the same time,’ Estrada told Wilkinson in an interview.


Inarritu’s ‘Biutiful,’ still somewhat shrouded in mystery, is not yet widely released in Mexico but will premiere at the upcoming Morelia International Film Festival. Bardem won best actor honors for his performance in the film at this year’s Cannes film festival. The film takes place in Barcelona -- far from Mexico -- and follows Bardem’s character Uxbal, who is ‘connected with the afterlife.’

Here’s the trailer.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City