In Memoriam: Vicente Leñero

Celebrated and award-winning novelist, journalist, and playwright, Vicente Leñero (pictured) passed away of lung cancer Wednesday in his home in Mexico City at age 81. He began as a novelist, penning his first novel La voz adolorida in 1961 and followed by one of his best known works Los albañiles / The Bricklayers in 1963. 

His theater play Pueblo rechazado launched him into the film world when he decided to adapt it to the big screen, becoming the feature film El monasterio de los buitres (1973), directed by Francisco del Villar. From there on he developed a fruitful career as a screenwriter writing the scripts for 18 feature films, some of them becoming the most influential and popular Mexican films of past 40 years. 

Leñero worked with del Villar again in El llanto de la tortuga (1975). The following year he worked on the film adaptation of his acclaimed novel Los albañiles. The film version directed by Jorge Fons and starring Ignacio López Tarso, Katy Jurado, and José Alonso was released in 1976 and won the Silver Bear (ex aequo) at the Berlin Film Festival 1n 1977. The film portrayed Mexican society of the 1970’s through the eyes of the construction workers.

After the critical acclaim of Los albañiles, Leñero went on to work with filmmaker Roberto Gavaldón in Cuando tejen las arañas (1977), which became the last film of the prolific director. One year later he worked with Arturo Ripstein on the screenplay of Cadena perpetua / In for Life (1978), based on a novel by Luis Spota, which earned him his first Ariel, Mexican Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

In 1987 he worked with director Alberto Isaac on Mariana Mariana (pictured left), the film version of José Emilio Pacheco's acclaimed novel Batallas en el desierto. The film marked Leñero's second Ariel nomination and first win. In 1993 he worked with director Alejandro Pelayo on the biopic film Miroslava, which narrated the final days of popular actress Miroslava Stern.  

Leñero worked with Fons again in 1995 writing the script for El callejón de los milagros / Midaq Alley, the film adaptation of the Egyptian novel by the Nobel Prize Winner Naguib Mahfouz which was set in Mexico City. Starring Ernesto Gómez Cruz, María Rojo and Salma Hayek, the film was awarded with numerous prizes at different international film festivals.

In 1999, he worked in the controversial film La ley de Herodes / Herod's Law by Luis Estrada, a political comedy that became a very popular and contested film after some reported attempt of censorship. In 2002, he went on to write the Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated film El crimen del Padre Amaro / The Crime of Father Amarostarring Gael Garcia Bernal, based on a novel by Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz, which became one of the highest-grossing Mexican films of all time. 

Leñero's last screenplay work was in 2010, working again with Jorge Fons, in El atentado based in Álvaro Uribe's novel.