García Márquez and Cinema (English version)

Beyond Adaptations

By María Lourdes Cortés

"...my relations with cinema (...) are those of a marriage on bad terms. That is to say, I cannot live with cinema or without cinema, and judging from the quantity of offers I receive from producers, cinema feels the same way about me."
—Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez’s passion for film has always been constant and multifaceted. He has written film reviews; he has produced an extensive report about filmmaker Miguel Littin, Clandestine in Chile; he has led script workshops; he has adapted other writers’ stories and novellas as well as his own tales for the cinema; and nearly twenty Latin American, Iberian, and European directors have used his pieces to produce works for the big screen. Moreover, he has created a foundation for New Latin American Cinema, and a School of Cinema and Television for the Third World. The relationship between film and García Márquez is, as he himself confesses, a “marriage on bad terms,” but it has nevertheless borne multiple fruits.

During recent years there has been an increase in “cinematographic Gabomania” since the release in 2007 of the Colombian author’s sole Hollywood movie to date: Love in the Time of Cholera, directed by Mike Nichols. The film production company Argos this year begins filming Noticia de un secuestro (“News of a Kidnapping”), and Costa Rican filmmaker Hilda Hidalgo, a graduate of the school founded by the author, is finishing her adaptation of Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons”), which was offered to her by García Márquez himself at the end of one of his workshops, and which has now become the most ambitious film in Central American cinema.

García Márquez’s fondness for the seventh art – sparked by his grandfather Nicolás Márquez, "who had taken him by the hand in Aracataca to see the films of Tom Mix" – finally blossomed through his work as a film critic beginning in February of 1954. The cinema-loving Gabo took advantage of a trip to Europe in 1955 as a reporter for El Espectador to enroll in the renowned Experimental Cinematographic Center in Rome; notwithstanding, he left after only a couple of months, disappointed by the academic focus of the Center.

Still, his passion for film did not wear out so easily: he returned to Barranquilla planning to establish a film school, a project that he wrote up but never realized. In 1961, he traveled to Mexico:

"…with twenty dollars in his pocket, his woman, a son, and an idea fixed in his head: to make cinema."

Mexican producer Manuel Barbachano Ponce offered him an opportunity to work on his adaptation of El gallo de oro, a text by Juan Rulfo, done in collaboration with Carlos Fuentes. Soon, they the producers began to take an interest in the writer himself, and García Márquez ceded the rights to his story En este pueblo no hay ladrones so that Alberto Isaac and Emilio García Riera could produce it for the big screen.

In 1964, García Márquez wrote his first original script, Tiempo de morir; an old idea which in that era he called "El charro". The script was written expressly for Arturo Ripstein, and the dialogues were adapted by Carlos Fuentes. The work marked the beginning of the career of the now renowned Mexican director, Ripstein. Later on, between 1983 and 1985, Colombian director Jorge Alí Triana produced two versions of the same script, one for film and the other for television, and Rodrigo García, son of the Nobel Prize winner, also produced a version of the same script.

García Márquez continued to contribute to the works of Ripstein and of Luis Alcoriza, such as Presagio (1974), considered by some critics to be the best film from this early stage.

While making Presagio, the García Márquez realized that he was writing something very similar to what he wanted to express in a literary form. He shut himself away for eighteen months and emerged with Cien años de soledad (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”) (1967).

The publication and success of this book, which turned him into a world-famous writer, changed the trajectory of his career. From then on, directors would come looking for him to adapt his novellas and stories: María de mi corazón (1979), Eréndira(1982), by Ruy Guerra, La viuda de Montiel (1979), by the Chilean Miguel Littin, El mar del tiempo perdido (1981), by Solveig Hoogesteijn, Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes (1988), by Fernando Birri, and Oedipo alcalde (1996), Jorge Alí Triana’s contemporary adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. In 1997, the Italian Francesco Rosi adapted Crónica de una muerte anunciada (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold”) and in 1998, Ripstein filmed El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (“No One Writes to the Colonel”). Additionally, numerous television series and short films have been produced by students of the Script Workshop with the collaboration of the Master.

Nevertheless, we believe that García Márquez’s fundamental contribution to film was the founding of Cuba’s International School of Cinema and Television (EICTV), which has allowed more than 800 youths to learn about the film trade – youths who, without his figure, would have never pursued their interests in film. Gabo is the great father of all young Latin American filmmakers, many of whom have already won international awards. Like Hilda Hidalgo, they are adapting the work of the “father,” but adding a very personal vision of Del amor y otros demonios: a feminine view, a love story, the first film of an EICTV student. A challenge that Hilda accepted with a smile and with the complicity of the master.

María Lourdes Cortés is the director of the Fondo de fomento al audiovisual de Centroamérica y el Caribe, the Foundation for Central American and Caribbean Audiovisual Promotion. A professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica and a researcher for the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, she is author of Amor y traición: cine y literatura en América Latina (1999) and La pantalla rota: Cien años de cine en Centroamérica (2005). She is currently working on a book about García Márquez and film.