The Uruguayan film critic, programmer, and occasional actor, Jorge Jellinek has died today at the age of 62. A major figure in Uruguayan cinema, he was better known to international audiences for starring in Federico Veiroj’s 2010 drama A Useful Life / La vida útil, about the closing of the local cinémathèque and the protagonist’s love for cinema.
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay on January 10, 1957, he was a journalist and film critic since 1982. He majored in anthropological studies and collaborated in several national and international publications and radio shows. He wrote for the newspapers El País and Últimas Noticias, and the weekly Tiempos del Mundo. He also wrote for the International Film Guide and Cineaste.
Jellinek served as vice president of the Association of Uruguay’s Film Critics (FIPRESCI section), and served as a juror in several international festivals including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires Film Festival (BAFICI), and Viña del Mar, among others. He also served as artistic director of the Punta del Este and Piriápolis film festivals.
In 2010, filmmaker Veiroj convinced Jellinek to star in his second film A Useful Life. He played the role of Jorge, the most devoted employee at the Cinemateca Uruguaya's, who after twenty-five years in his job still found his inspiration in caring for the films and audiences that grace the seats and screen of his beloved arthouse cinema. When dwindling attendance and diminishing support force the theater to close its doors, Jorge is sent into a world he knows only through the lens of art—and suddenly forced to discover a new passion that transcends his once-celluloid reality.
A Useful Life had a successful film festival and theatrical run, winning the top prize at the Havana Film Festival and having a one-week run at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Jellinek was awarded with the Best Actor Prize at the 2011 edition of BAFICI in Argentina.
Jellinek acted once again in the 2012 film The Dead Man and Being Happy / El muerto y ser feliz by Spanish filmmaker Javier Rebollo, about a sick, worn-down hired killer, who impulsively heads out on one last assignment: a 2,000-mile excursion from his Buenos Aires hospital bed into the vast interior of Argentina.