Legendary filmmaker Leonardo Favio, one of most respected Argentine directors of all time, died today at the age of 74 in Buenos Aires from a chronic disease. Born Fuad Jorge Jury in a small town in the province of Mendoza, Argentina in 1938, Favio was known for most Latin Americans as a known as a pop singer/songwriter. Having a rough childhood that was part spent in a reform school, he tried different occupations -from boxing to singing, before he tried his luck as a movie actor in the country's capital.
Favio got a starring role in Leopoldo Torres Nilson's El secuestrador / The Kidnapper (1958), which made him an overnight sensation, "the Argentinean James Dean" he was known. He had a strong and popular career as an actor for the following decade, and until he decided to take a stab at directing, encouraged by Torre Nilson. In 1964 he made his debut feature film Crónica de un niño solo / Chronicle of a Lonely Child (pictured right), which was partly autobiographical, the story of Piolín, an impoverished young kid who escapes a rehabilitation center looking for a better life.
Between 1966 and 1975, Favio directed five films, which were highly acclaimed: Éste es el romance del Aniceto y la Francisca, de cómo quedó trunco, comenzó la tristeza y unas pocas cosas más... / The Romance of Aniceto and Francisca (1966); El dependiente / The Employee (1969); Juan Moreira (1973); Nazareno Cruz y el Lobo / Nazareno Cruz and The Wolf (1975); and Soñar, soñar / Dream, Dream (1976).
By the seventies, he had also became more involved in politics, becoming a fervent militant of the Peronist movement. During the Argentine military dictatorship, Favio fled the country and devoted himself to popular music. He became an immensely popular Latin American singer with romantic ballads that were big hits like "Hoy corté una flor", "Fuiste mía un verano", "Ella, ella ya me olvidó", "Quiero aprender de memoria", "Ding, dong, las cosas del amor" and "La cita."
In 1993 he had a comeback to filmmaking directing the film Gatica, the story of a popular Argentine boxer in the 1940s and 1950s nicknamed El Mono, "the monkey", which had some autobiographical resonance to Favio's life. For the following five years, he devoted himself to Perón, sinfonía del sentimiento / Perón, A Symphony of Feeling (1999), a six-hour film epic and didactic film shot on video, attempting to explain the legacy of the Peronist movement.
In 2008, he directed his last film Aniceto (pictured left), which was a remake of his classic film The Romance of Aniceto and Francisca as a ballet production. The film went to win eight Silver Condor awards, including the prizes for Best Film and Best Director, given by Argentine Film Critics Association. In 2010, Favio was appointed Argentina's Ambassador of Culture by President Cristina Kirchner.
Cinema Tropical had a retrospective of his work in the fall of 2001 at the Pioneer Theater in downtown Manhattan showing six of his feature films including Chronicle of a Lonely Child, The Employee, Dream, Dream, and Gatica.