In Memoriam: Gabriel García Márquez and Cinema


Sad news emerged from Mexico City yesterday as the celebrated Nobel-winner writer Gabriel García Márquez died at the age of 87. Born in Aracataca, Colombia on March 6, 1927 the acclaimed novelist had a close, passionate and influential relationship with cinema throughout his career, including considering becoming a filmmaker at a certain point of his life.

García Márquez's initial contact with cinema was through film criticism. Working as a columnist for the newspaper El Universal de Cartagena in 1948 he wrote about some films. A couple of years later and working for the newspaper El Heraldo de Barranquilla he also wrote some film reviews under the nom de plume Septimus. In 1953 he moved to Bogotá and wrote for El espectador. Each Saturday, for a year and a half, he wrote the column "El cine en Bogotá, estrenos de la semana," which became very influential in the development of film criticism in Colombia.

In 1954 with his friends Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Enrique Grau Araújo and Luis Vicens, he co-directed the experimental surrealist short film La langosta azul / The Blue Lobster. The silent 16mm film tells the story of a foreign intelligence agent called El Gringo, who investigates the presence of radioactivity in some lobsters caught in a fishing village in the Caribbean. As he takes a break at his hotel, a cat steals the lobster. Upset and distressed, El Gringo goes out to the streets in their search for it.

A year later, in 1955, he enrolled to study filmmaking at the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, Italy, where he would meet Cuban directors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa, Argentinean director Fernando Birri, as well as screenwriter Cesar Zavattini of The Bicycle Thief, who became an influential mentor of his. Yet, he was a student in film school for only a few months before migrating to Mexico.

During the sixties and seventies he worked as a screenwriter in different projects in Mexico including El gallo de oro / The Golden Cockerel (1964), directed by Roberto Gavaldón based on a story by Juan Rulfo; Tiempo de Morir / A Time to Day (1966, pictured above right), which was Arturo Ripstein's directorial debut and co-written with Carlos Fuentes; 4 contra el crimen (1968) by Sergio Véjar; Presagio / Presage (1975) by Luis Alcoriza; and El año de la peste (1979) by Felipe Cazals, among other films. In 1966 he taught screenwriting at the Centro de Estudios Universitarios (CUEC). 

It is in 1965 that his first literary work is adapted for the big screen: En este pueblo no hay ladrones / There Are No Thieves in This Village, directed by Alberto Isaac and based on a short story of Gabriel García Márquez, which included some high-profile cameos by Luis Buñuel, Leonora Carrington, Juan Rulfo and García Márquez himself. In 1969 Manuel Michel directed Patsy, mi amor starring Ofelia Medina in the leading role and based on a story by García Márquez.

In 1979, Chilean director Miguel Littín directed La viuda de Montiel / The Widow of Montiel starring Geraldine Chaplin and Katy Jurado based on a short story by the Colombian writer, which had its world premiere in the official competition of the Berlin Film Festival. That same year he worked in the film adaptation of his own story María de mi corazón / Mary My Dearest (pictured left above) directed by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and starring María Rojo.

Later in his life, García Márquez continued working as a screenwriter for films such as Fábula de la bella palomera / The Fable of the Beautiful Pigeon Fancier by Ruy Guerra; Milagro en Roma / Miracle in Rome (1989) by Lisandro Duque; Edipo alcalde / Oedipus Mayor (1996) by Jorge Alí Triana. 

Other adaptations of his most celebrated novels include Eréndira (1983) by Brazilian director Guerra, in which García Márquez also worked in the screenplay; Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1987) by Italian director Francesco Rossi; El coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No One Writes to the Colonel (1999, pictured left) by Mexican director Ripstein; Love in the Time of Cholera (2007, pictured above right) by British director Mike Newell; Del amor y otros demonios / Of Love and Other Demons (2009) by Costa Rican director Hilda Hidalgo; and more recently, Memoria de mis putas tristes / Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Danish director Henning Carlsen. 

García Márquez film legacy is also present in the creation of the Fundación de Cine Latinoamericano in 1985, and of the Escuela de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba a year later, both institutions became leading protagonists in the creation and promotion of Latin American cinema. 

Watch the short film La langosta azul (1954):