With ‘Bardo,’ Alejandro G. Iñárritu returns to Mexico

VENICE, Italy (AP) — Alejandro G. Iñárritu left Mexico with his family on Sept. 1, 2001. They’d decided to move to Los Angeles for one year. But one turned into 21. In Los Angeles, Iñárritu’s filmmaking career flourished: He won five Oscars, two for directing and one for best picture, and worked with many of the top movie stars. But he longed for Mexico.

His new film “Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)” is both his return to his home country and a deeply personal (and utterly surreal) expression and interpretation of that longing. It had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival Thursday night, where it is among the competition titles.

Going back to Mexico to make the film, he said was, “like being in a mirror, re-meeting a friend. Totally different. People find me as different. But it was like reinterpreting, emotionally, a memory.”

“Bardo” is not about an Iñárritu-like filmmaker, however. His stand-in is a journalist and documentarian, (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who also left Mexico for Los Angeles 20 years early, got wildly successful and then returned home.

“This movie, like the others has not been developed by my mind but rather by my heart,” Iñárritu said through a translator before the film’s premiere. “I didn’t want to write an emotional autobiography, that was not my objective… but I was trying to give meaning to these feelings, revealing many things about myself.”

The film grapples also with ideas about success. One character says that you can take a sip of success, but you have to spit it out after because it can poison. The line, he said, was lifted from his own father, who he said inherited success and then lost it.

“Success was important for me. You want success. But success may also entail expectations and responsibility you have to bear towards other people,” he said. “You face challenges. Success requires a change of your priorities. For me, it was like a learning process, having success which is why I’ve tried to include this sentence in an important moment.”

“Bardo” will open in theaters on Nov. 18, before becoming available on Netflix on Dec. 16.

Netflix, he said, gave him “total freedom.”

“This movie will be screened in theaters as well, in Mexico and the U.S., this is something I really appreciate,” he said. “This is something special and important for me.”

But while Iñárritu appreciates the sanctity of the theater, he also said that a fair amount of his own cinematic education came from watching movies on television, with commercials, or on poor-quality VHS tapes. He’s not, in other words, especially worried about people seeing his film at home, distractions and all.

“What remains is our ideas,” he said. “A movie is a movie.”

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