Carlos Reygadas

Carlos Reygadas Castillo (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkaɾlos reiˈɣaðas]; born October 10, 1971) is a Mexican filmmaker. Influenced by existentialist art and philosophy, Reygadas' movies feature spiritual journeys into the inner worlds of his main characters, through which themes of love, suffering, death, and life's meaning are explored.

Reygadas has been described as "the one-man third wave of Mexican cinema";[1] his works are generally considered art films, and are known for their expressionistic cinematography, long takes, and emotionally charged stories. His first and third films, Japón (2002) and Silent Light (2007), made him one of Latin America's most prominent writer-directors, with various critics having named Silent Light as one of the best films of its decade. His films Battle in Heaven (2005) and Post Tenebras Lux (2012) divided critics.

He has co-produced other directors such as Amat Escalante (Sangre, Los Bastardos, Heli), Carlos Serrano Azcona (The Tree) or Pedro Aguilera (The Influence).

Carlos Reygadas
Carlos Reygadas Tokyo Intl Filmfest 2009
Reygadas at the Tokyo International
Filmfest in 2009
BornOctober 10, 1971 (age 47)
OccupationFilm director, producer and screenwriter
Years active1997 - present

Early life

Reygadas first became fascinated with cinema in 1987, upon watching the works of the acclaimed Soviet/Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who had died the previous year. In 1997, he entered a film competition in Belgium with his first short film, Maxhumain.


Two years after the release of Maxhumain, Reygadas began writing his first feature-length movie. Shooting for the film, named Japón, began in 2001. When finished, the film was presented at the Rotterdam Film Festival and received a special mention for the Caméra d'Or award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Coral Award of the Havana Film Festival. Many critics argued that Japón (2002) revolutionized Mexican cinema by defying the conventions of dramatic structure and inventing a new cinematographic language that reflects the sensory world humans inhabit while expressing life as an transcendental experience. The film's title questions a simplistic correlation between signifier and signified, for although it is named after Japan, the island country itself is never portrayed, or even mentioned, in any way throughout; the story is set in a remote and impoverished Hidalgo town.

The harsh atmosphere of this region is clear, but its remoteness also creates a dreamlike nature that accentuates the metaphysical crisis the protagonist is experiencing. The plot follows the ascension of a man up a deep ravine where he plans to commit suicide, but is finally saved when he falls in love with Ascen (short for Ascension), an old religious and indigenous woman with whom he ultimately has sexual relations. The relation between these two characters has an clear allegorical significance that goes beyond its pure physicality and exposes the ultimate aim of an encounter, the true purpose of all human connectability. In this respect, although Japón focuses on the inner problems of a single individual, and the protagonist's relation both with the old woman and with the rustic surrounding where the story takes place, in its core it "reveals the potential that cinema has to be truly cosmopolitan, to the extent that it gives us structures for developing empathy towards the foreign and the unfamiliar, and for understanding more deeply the divide between self and other.".[2]

Japón contains a number of scenes of real animal cruelty and the British Board of Film Classification demanded cuts for its UK release in accordance with the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. The excised scenes are described as an unsuccessful attempt to strangle a bird which then stumbles around injured on the ground and a dog being forced to 'sing along' to a song through the application of a painful stimulus.[3] The film also includes an unsimulated scene of a bird being shot down and then killed by having its head torn off, and the (off camera) slaughter of a pig.[4]

Battle in Heaven (2005)

In Reygadas' next film, the director once again presents an ontological exploration into the interior of his characters. This time the film follows Marcos, a working class man, who falls into an existential crisis when a child kidnapped by his wife and him, tragically dies. Marcos' remorse becomes even more excruciating when he kills Ana, the free-spirit daughter of his employer, with whom he has sexual relations. This murder deepens Marcos sense of guilt and leads him in a long and painful pilgrimage of repentance to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During the journey Marcos transforms into a Christ-like figure that eventually assumes a purifying, sacrificial function as he dies inside the famous Mexican church. Battle in Heaven competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and gained worldwide notoriety for its graphic depiction of sexual encounters between its characters .[5]

Silent Light (2007)

Similarly to Japón, in his third movie, Silent Light (2007), Reygadas' shatters the very notion that art in “developing nations" should be read as a social, historical or cultural reference to their country of origin. This film, set in a historic Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico, tells the story of a married man who falls in love with another woman, thus threatening the stability of his family and their place within the conservative community they live in. The dialogue is written in Plautdietsch language, the Low German dialect of the Mennonites, and hence questions a stereotypical conception of what defines Mexico and Mexicans alike. Furthermore, Silent Light shows several similarities to Ordet (1955) by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. Although Reygadas' film is not a remake of the European movie it is to a great degree influenced by it, thus accentuating the universality of his work. American director Martin Scorsese described Silent Light as "a surprising picture, and a very moving one as well,",[6] while Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called it "an apparently simple story about forgiving" in which "the images are of extraordinary beauty" and "the characters seem to be illuminated from the inside." [1]. Silent Lightwas very positively reviewed by most critics, and was selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 80th Academy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 24th Independent Spirit Awards and gained nine nominations, including all major categories, in the Ariel Awards, the Mexican national film awards. Furthermore, the film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and came away as winner of the Jury Prize.[7] The magazine Sight & Sound rated it number 6 on their list of the top films of 2007, while Roger Ebert ranked the film one of the top ten independent films of 2009.[6]

Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

In early 2012, Reygadas released Post Tenebras Lux, a semi-autobiographical fiction film, he said has "feelings, memories, dreams, things I’ve hoped for, fears, facts of my current life." As film critic Francine Prose has written, the movie "shifts back and forth between present and past, reality and fantasy, childhood and adulthood [and] offers us a set of images and sequences to which it repeatedly returns; with each of these reprises the image or sequence takes on additional meaning, depth, and nuance."[8] In an interview at the Berlin Festival, Reygadas said that "reason will intervene as little as possible, like an expressionist painting where you try to express what you're feeling through the painting rather than depict what something looks like." The film was shot in Mexico, Britain, Spain, and Belgium, all places where Reygadas has lived, and at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival won the prize of Best Director Award.[9]

Currently, Reygadas in working on his fifth film entitled “Donde nace la vida” (2016) with the collaboration of Uruguayan cinematographer Diego Garcia, who worked in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Love and in Khon Kaen and Yulene Olaizola’s Fogo. The film´s executive producer and Reygadas´his long-time partner, Jaime Romandia, has stated that the film is “a simple but powerful story of love and loss of love, in open couple relationships, emotional phases on the downfall set in the context of Mexico’s fighting bull-breeding ranches.”[10] In addition to working in his own films, in 2004 Reygadas has also co-produced the film Sangre directed by the young filmmaker Amat Escalante who had worked as his assistant in Battle in Heaven. Presented at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Sangre won in the Un Certain Regard section and was also scrrened in other festivals, such as the Toulouse Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival. Furthermore, he has worked with the Spanish director and producer Jaime Rosales (Fresdeval Films), in the film El árbol (The Tree). This Spanish-Mexican co-production was directed by Carlos Serrano Azcona and starred Bosco Sodi, a contemporary artist, as the main character. The film was presented at the 2009 Rotterdam Film Festival and received positive reviews.

Directorial style

Reygadas' use of nonprofessional actors shows influence from Italian neorealist philosophies on cinema. While this is a characteristic found in many independent movies, Reygadas is set apart by his ability to fully engage with his actors while guiding them through an internal process by which they can embody scenes that are both physically and emotionally demanding. Reygadas has metaphorically likened the relation between a director and his or her actors to a complete vote of confidence in which both take a risk and enter an adventure: "Pretend I'm a climber and invite you to the Everest. I tell you that I have gone twice and there are certain risks: you can have a stroke, fall or die because of an avalanche. You decide whether or not to go up with me. And that's it."[11] For him, cinema is closer to poetry than to the dramatic arts and hence more focused on capturing the essence of a character through the person filmed than the individual's acting ability.

Reygadas' use of long takes and wide shots have been said to depict the sublime as an aesthetic quality found in nature, that can manifest itself both as a terrifying vital force and in more subtle ways. He has opted to shoot all but one of his films in CinemaScope, and often employs an unconventional editing technique that greatly contributes to a lyrical quality in how his narratives unfold.


Year Original title English title Production country Language Length Award nominations
1999 Maxhumain MaxHumain Belgium Silent 10 min
2002 Japón Japón Mexico Spanish 130 min Directors Fortnight – "Special Mention" Camara d'Òr Award
2005 Batalla en el Cielo Battle in Heaven Mexico, France, Germany Spanish 105 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition"
2007 Luz Silenciosa (aka Stellet Licht) Silent Light Mexico, France, Germany, Netherlands Plautdietsch 110 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition" Jury Prize Award
2010 Este es mi Reino This is my Kingdom Mexico Spanish 10 min Berlin Film Festival
2012 Post Tenebras Lux Post Tenebras Lux Mexico, France, Germany, Netherlands Spanish 110 min Cannes Film Festival "In Competition" Best Director Award.
2018 Nuestro Tiempo Our Time Spanish 173 min


  1. ^ "Sight & Sound's films of the decade". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Cosmopolitan Aesthetics in the Films of Carlos Reygadas". Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  3. ^ Japon - Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Yolanda Villa
  4. ^ Austin360 Movies: 'Japon' Reviews - Los Angeles Times
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Battle in Heaven". Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  6. ^ "Silent Light", Film Forum website
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Silent Light". Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Awards 2012". Cannes. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links

46th Ariel Awards

The XLVI Award of the Premio Ariel (2004) of the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas took place on March 30, 2004 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The Premio Ariel for the best movie was awarded to El misterio del Trinidad.

Amat Escalante

Amat Escalante (born 28 February 1979) is a Mexican film director, producer and screenwriter. He is most well known for directing the controversial Mexican crime thriller Heli for which he was awarded the best director prize award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and for directing the 2016 Mexican drama The Untamed for which he received the Silver Lion for best director at the 2016 Venice Film Festival.

Battle in Heaven

Battle in Heaven (Spanish: Batalla en el cielo) is a 2005 Mexican-French-German film. It is the second feature film by director Carlos Reygadas who previously directed the Mexican film Japón. It was entered into the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Reygadas has said about this film: "it’s my problem child, and therefore the film of mine I love the most."

Best Director Award (Cannes Film Festival)

The Best Director Award (French: Prix de la mise en scène) is an annual award presented at the Cannes Film Festival for best directing achievements in a feature film screened as part of festival's official selection (i.e. films selected for the competition program which compete for the festival's main prize Palme d'Or). Awarded by festival's jury, it was first given in 1946.

The prize was not awarded on 12 occasions (1947, 1953–54, 1960, 1962–64, 1971, 1973–74, 1977, 1980). In addition, the festival was not held at all in 1948 and 1950, while in 1968 no awards were given as the festival was called off mid-way due to the May 1968 events in France. Also, the jury vote was tied and prize was shared by two directors on seven occasions (1955, 1969, 1975, 1983, 2001, 2002 and 2016).

The winner of Best Director Award rarely wins the Palme d'Or, the main prize at the festival (note that the Palme d'Or is awarded to the film's director as well; the only exception is the case of Blue Is the Warmest Colour, where the actresses were also awarded with the director). This happened only twice, in 1991, when Joel Coen won both awards for Barton Fink, and in 2003, when Gus Van Sant won for his film Elephant.

Coproduction Office

Coproduction Office is a film production and international sales company specialised in art-house films.

Founded in 1987 by Philippe Bober, it includes a sales agency and three production divisions based in Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen.

Over the last two decades, it has mainly produced and handled films by Ulrich Seidl, Jessica Hausner, Roy Andersson, Michelangelo Frammartino, Thomas Clay, Kornél Mundruczó, Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Carlos Reygadas, and Ruben Östlund, and has also sold single films by, among others, Takashi Miike, Antonio Campos, Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Gust Van den Berghe.

Escuela Libre de Derecho

Escuela Libre de Derecho is a prestigious law school in Mexico. Founded in 1912, it has among its alumni some of the most distinguished Mexican attorneys. It is located on Dr Vertiz 12 in Colonia Doctores in Mexico City.

Global Film Initiative

The Global Film Initiative (GFI) is a non-profit film organization that supports cinematic works from developing nations and promotes cross-cultural understanding through use of film and non-traditional learning resources. Its most notable programs are the Global Lens Film Series, a traveling film-series that premieres annually at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and is accompanied by educational screening-programs for high school students, and the Granting program, which has awarded numerous grants to narrative film-projects from around the world, many of which have been nominated as official country selections for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards.

The Global Film Initiative was founded by Susan Coulter Weeks in 2002 and is advised by a board of directors, and a film-board composed of filmmakers such as Mira Nair, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodóvar, Bela Tarr, Carlos Reygadas, Christopher Doyle and Djamshed Usmonov. In 2004, it entered into a partnership with First Run Features for distribution of all films in the Global Lens Film Series, and in 2006 it moved its offices from the West Village of New York to the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco, California (USA). Their office is currently located in the Ninth Street Independent Film Center in San Francisco.

Irma Voth

Irma Voth is the fifth novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews. The novel, about a Mennonite teenager whose life is transformed when a bohemian film crew comes to her settlement to make a film about Mennonites, was informed by Toews' experience as lead actress in Silent Light, the award-winning film written and directed by Mexican filmmaker, Carlos Reygadas.


Japón (English: Japan) is a 2002 film by the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. It was Reygadas' debut feature.

Julio Chavezmontes

Julio Chavezmontes is a Mexican film producer and screenwriter. In 2011, he founded Piano with Sebastián Hofmann to produce and distribute challenging and original films. Their feature debut, "Halley", premiered internationally at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and was supported by the Hubert Bals Fund and Foprocine. Other well known productions include "Echo of the Mountain" and "We Are the Flesh". His work as a writer-producer has been profiled by Variety.

Mantarraya Productions

Mantarraya Productions, is an independent cinema production company funded in 1998. On their web page they define Mantarraya as; "... works as a platform for a new generation of filmmakers and has earned a reputation for promoting new talent".

NDMantarraya is the label they use for distribution (in association with Nodream Cinema company of film director Carlos Reygadas), and NDM is the international sales company label.

Mantarraya Productions is known for their risky content on their films. They are the Mexican production company with the most international film awards in the last 50 years. Since 2002 they participated eight times in different sections of the Cannes Film Festival and their parallel sections; six times in the "Official Selection", four of them in the Competition and two more in "Un Certain Regard", also they have been invited 2 times to the Directors' Fortnight a parallel section of Cannes Film Festival.

The Mexican Academy choose Heli to represent Mexico for the 2014 Oscars Award.

Miriam Toews

Miriam Toews (; born 1964) is a Canadian writer, best known for her novels A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows. She has won a number of literary prizes including the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award for body of work. She is also a two-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a two-time winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Toews had a leading role in the feature film Silent Light, written and directed by Mexican filmmaker, Carlos Reygadas and winner of the 2007 Cannes Jury Prize, an experience that informed her fifth novel, Irma Voth.

Nathalia Acevedo

Nathalia Acevedo (born November 22, 1984) is a Mexican actress best known for her acting debut in Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux which premiered in competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and won for Reygadas the Best Director Award. Her most notable roles since include starring alongside Tadanobu Asano, in Filipino cult director Khavn De La Cruz’s, Ruined Heart, in 2014 (shot by Christopher Doyle and premiering at the Tokyo Film Festival 2014) and starring in Marialy Rivas´ Princesita.

Our Time (2018 film)

Our Time (Spanish: Nuestro tiempo) is a 2018 Mexican drama film directed by Carlos Reygadas. It was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival.

Piano (company)

Piano is an independent film production and distribution company based in Mexico City, started in 2011 by Julio Chavezmontes and Sebastián Hofmann as a platform for innovative filmmakers. It specializes in film production, finance, distribution, and international coproductions.“Halley”, the company’s first feature project, premiered internationally at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Piano has produced ten films, which have collectively premiered at over 100 international film festivals – including official selections at Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam, Locarno and Toronto – and have received multiple awards and nominations in Mexico and abroad.

Notable past coproducers include Carlos Reygadas, Jaime Romandía, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lisa Cortes, Yann Gonzalez, Michael Fitzgerald, Stienette Bosklopper, Moises Cosio, and Ginevra Elkann.

Post Tenebras Lux (film)

Post Tenebras Lux is a 2012 drama film written and directed by Carlos Reygadas. The title is Latin for "Light after darkness". The film is semiautobiographical, and the narrative follows a rural couple in Mexico, with additional scenes from England, Spain and Belgium; all places where Reygadas has lived. The film competed in competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and Reygadas won the Best Director Award.Contemporary reviews for Post Tenebras Lux were far more divided than those for Reygadas' previous works. Some considered the film to be incoherent or frustrating in structure, while others have declared it a masterpiece.

Rafał Syska

Rafał Syska (born July 18, 1974 in Kielce) is a Polish film historian and writer. He is an associate professor in the Audiovisual Arts Department of Jagiellonian University in Cracow. At the beginning of his career he was specialized in the phenomenon of violence in cinema (Ph-D thesis Film and Violence. Ways of Film Violence Representation), then he focused on strategies of authorship in American cinema (post Ph-D., habilitation dissertation Keep the Distance. Film World of Robert Altman). At present he is an expert of the contemporary minimalistic slow-cinema, especially its neomodernism tendencies (e.g. works of Alexander Sokurov, Béla Tarr, Bruno Dumont, Sarunas Bartas, Fred Kelemen, Tsai Ming-liang, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas.

He published a book upon the Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos. He was also an editor of the dictionary Film Dictionary and now he is a co-editor of a numerous-volume books: Masters of American Cinema and History of Cinema.

At the Audiovisual Arts Department, he conducts lectures in courses: Film interpretation, History of world cinema and Ways of contemporary cinema. Three times he did the research in the United States, financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and The Kosciuszko Foundation. In 2012 he was a scholar visiting at Columbia University in New York

Syska was also a grant holder of the Stanislaw Estreicher Foundation, Polityka Weekly Magazine as well as prestigious Foundation for Polish Science and The Kosciuszko Foundation. In 2009 he was awarded by Rector of Jagiellonian University and received a nomination to Boleslaw Michalek Prize for the best film studies book. In years 1994-2004, he was co-creator of Etiuda&Anima International Film Festival in Kraków and twice he was its co-director. He is publishing his essays in the Polish magazines Kino, Kwartalnik filmowy and Didaskalia. He is a founder and editor-in-chief of "EKRANy" bi-monthly film magazine. In 2014 he was a curator of the exhibition Stanley Kubrick in the National Museum in Crakow.

Silent Light

Silent Light (Plautdietsch: Stellet Licht; Spanish: Luz silenciosa) is a 2007 film written and directed by Carlos Reygadas. Filmed in a Mennonite colony close to Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua State, Northern Mexico, Silent Light tells the story of a Mennonite married man who falls in love with another woman, threatening his place in the conservative community. The dialogue is in Plautdietsch, the Low German dialect of the Mennonites. The film was selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 80th Academy Awards, but it did not make the shortlist. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 24th Independent Spirit Awards. It gained nine nominations, including all major categories, in the Ariel Awards, the Mexican national awards.

Martin Scorsese described the work as "A surprising picture and a very moving one as well." It was awarded the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, the film was named the twenty-third "Best Film of the 21st Century So Far" by The New York Times.

Films directed by Carlos Reygadas

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