MoMA to Present a Retrospective on Mexican Director Roberto Gavaldón


The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has announced the retrospective film series “Roberto Gavaldón: Night Falls in Mexico” to take place April 25 through May 5 in New York City and featuring 13 films from that the Mexican filmmaker made between 1945 and 1973. This marks the second time Gavaldón is feted with a retrospective film series in New York after the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented “Wounded Pride, Simmering Passion: Roberto Gavaldón” in the summer of 2008.

The work of Mexican director Gavaldón spans the cultural divide at the center of Mexican national cinema, embracing both rural sagas of peasant life (the genre made internationally famous by Gavaldón’s contemporary, Emilio Fernández) and urban dramas centered on moneyed professionals (as in the cosmopolitan work of Julio Bracho). But whether they wear a sombrero (like Pedro Armendáríz in Rosauro Castro) or a fedora (like Arturo de Córdova in En la palma de tu mano), Gavaldón’s protagonists are marked by ungovernable passions and gnawing self-doubt, as they move through an unstable world toward a frequently unkind fate.

A brilliant technician, Gavaldón developed a distinctive visual style—based on bold back-lighting and intricately subdivided spaces—that suggests the film noir stylings of Hollywood directors like Anthony Mann and Joseph H. Lewis. With the assistance of such regular collaborators as the cinematographer Alex Phillips, the writer and political activist José Revueltas, and the composer Raúl Lavista, Gavaldón created a dense and coherent body of work that is only now being rediscovered, thanks largely to the ongoing restoration work of Mexico’s two major archives, the Cineteca Nacional and the Filmoteca de la UNAM, to whom we are grateful for making this program possible.

The complete retrospective is comprised of the feature films La barraca (1945), La otra / The Other One (1946), El socio (1946), La diosa arrodillada / The Kneeling Goddess (1947), Rosauro Castro (1950), En la palma de tu mano / In the Palm of Your Hand (1951), La noche avanza / Night Falls (1952), El rebozo de Soledad / Soledad’s Shawl (1952), Sombra verde / Untouched (1954), Macario (1960), La rosa blanca (1961), Dias de otoño / Autumn Days (1962), and Don Quijote cabalga de nuevo (1973).

The series is organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film, with the support of the Morelia International Film Festival, Viviana Garcia Besne, Permanencia Voluntaria, the Cineteca Nacional, the Filmoteca de la UNAM, Fundación Televisa, UCLA Film and Television Archive.