See A Classic Mexican Western Scripted By Gabriel García Márquez In Hollywood Friday
In 1966, a protegé of Luis Buñuel directed a classic Western from a screenplay written by none other than Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. Fifty years later, that film will have a rare, one-night-only outdoor screening at the newly restored Ford Theatre in Hollywood. Friday's screening of Tiempo de Morir ("A Time To Die") is presented by Libros Schmibros, a Boyle Heights non-profit lending library that also happens to be one of our very favorite places in the city. The film will be screened in Spanish with English subtitles, and will be introduced by García Márquez's son, director Rodrigo García, who will discuss its importance in Mexican film history.
Tiempo de Morir, which was last seen theatrically in America in 1966, was nominated for the Palme d'or at Cannes and is considered to be a groundbreaking classic of Mexican cinema. The film "essentially jolted the Mexican film industry out of the torpor and censorship it'd been pretty much mired in since the Golden Age," David Kipen, Libros Schmibros's founder and the former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts, told LAist.
"And you couldn't ask for a better literary pedigree, unless it was co-written by Carlos Fuentes—which it was," Kipen said. Among other things, Fuentes reportedly "Mexican-ized" Márquez's dialogue, according to the Harvard Film Archive.
Libros Schmibros' Mariachi Plaza storefront. (Courtesy of Libros Schmibros)
The film also served as the directorial debut for the legendary (and still active!) Mexican director, Arturo Ripstein. For Kipen, Ripstein's identity as a Mexican Jew was part of the film's appeal. Though Boyle Heights is now overwhelmingly Mexican American, the area has a long Jewish history. In fact, Kipen's own Jewish relatives made their home there long ago. The store's identity has always embraced the duality, down to its name (libros is the Spanish word for book; schmibros is an intentionally Yiddish-sounding nonsense word). "I thought Libros [Schmibros] was the Yiddish-Spanish joke that got out of hand, and here's this titan of Mexican film who is himself Jewish. If this thing had any more hooks, it would be a hat rack," Kipen said, explaining that the movie not only combined both literature and cinema, and Jewish and Mexican identity, but that it was also happened to be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary to the day, this month.
Libros Schmibros has already become a Boyle Heights institution and a citywide literary destination, but this is their first major foray into film programming.
"I thought what the hell, we've always wanted to champion Mexican film as well as Mexican literature, because it's all storytelling to me and most us at Libros are frustrated film freaks sublimating our movie love into literature and reading. That's only half a joke," Kipen told LAist with a laugh, explaining that his motives were two-fold. Kipen certainly aims to champion this particular powerful film, but he also hopes to push for more adventurous, bilingual programming among the surfeit of movies screened outdoors every summer in Los Angeles. The popularity of outdoor screenings in L.A. has exploded in recent years, but despite the fact that Los Angeles has the largest Latino population of any county in the nation, the number of films with Spanish subtitles being shown (let alone those actually screened in Spanish) remain shockingly paltry.
"Street Food Cinema and their ilk are fine, but they just keep programming to the whitest, westernmost, lowest common denominator in town," Kipen told LAist.
"All I want is for enough people to show up that we've demonstrated proof of concept—to demonstrate the appetite for smart outdoor film exhibition for a bilingual audience," adding that the eventual dream would be to show "right in our backyard." Think a regular series in Mariachi Plaza, showing everything from vintage Cantinflas to modern classics by Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón.
"For crying out loud, you can see Ferris Bueller in three different parks across town this summer," he said. "But where on the Eastside can a couple, or a family, spread out a blanket under the stars and enjoy one of the great pleasures of summer in L.A.?" If Kipen has his way, we can only imagine that the answer will be "plenty" in the years to come.
In the meantime, you can see Tiempo de Morir at the Ford Theatre this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets benefit Libros Schmibros, and can be purchased for $18 here.
A still from Tiempo de Morir. (Courtesy of Alameda Films)