‘Rudo y Cursi:’ The Mexican movie phenomenon

Eight years ago, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna became global pin-ups for the resurgence in Mexican filmmaking after their memorable breakthrough in coming-of-age road movie "Y tu Mama Tambien."

Today, Luna and Bernal’s on-screen chemistry has once again grabbed the public’s attention, this time in Mexico, where their latest film “Rudo y Cursi” made box-office history. It became the fourth highest-grossing film in the country’s history when it was released at the end of 2008. “Rudo y Cursi,” approximately translated as Tough and Corny, tells the story of two rural banana farmers who, after being ‘spotted’ by a crooked talent scout, gain instant celebrity in the Mexican soccer league playing for opposing teams. But, mesmerized by women and fast cars and unable to defy their demons, they look on powerless as the dream disintegrates in front of them almost as suddenly as it arrived. The movie touches on fame, poverty and corruption, but for its makers, it is ultimately a tale of brotherhood. It was written written and directed by Carlos Cuaron, and is the first release from groundbreaking new production venture Cha Cha Cha films. Cha Cha Cha was established by Mexico’s three leading directors who are also renowned internationally — Carlos’ brother Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”) and Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). All three serve as producers on the film. In pictures: Bernal and Garcia in “Rudo y Cursi” » “Originally I wanted to make a fake documentary about a footballer from a humble background who made it big and then disappeared mysteriously,” Carlos Cuaron told CNN. “But I told this idea to Gael [Garcia Bernal] and Diego [Luna], and they both said they wanted to play the part. I had one part and two actors. So I made up another brother and forgot about the fake documentary.” Cuaron also cast Bernal and Luna — best friends since childhood in Mexico City who were so keen to do the film the signed up before they saw a script — against type and against their wishes. Both had originally wanted to play the opposite character: Bernal the abrasive Rudo, and Luna the romantic Cursi. They were eventually dissuaded by Cuaron who said: “I don’t want to make Y Tu Mama Tambien 2.” The idea behind Cha Cha Cha films was conceived by Cuaron senior, del Toro and Innaritu when the trio — a kind of all-stars of Mexican cinema — found themselves with a surprise 16 nominations and 4 awards at the 2007 Oscars. The idea came out of a desire to pool their their rising bargaining power and maximize their clout in Hollywood — and, of course, out of friendship. The company was “born out of friendship and sibling sympathies,” del Toro told CNN. When Carlos was originally writing the script, his bother, Alfonso told him thought it was perfect for Cha Cha Cha. The venture formalizes a working relationship del Toro, Innaritu and Alfonso Cuaron have had for years, but they freely admit they spend little time together. Rather it is a case of exchanging ideas and honing each other’s writing over the phone and via email from all over the globe. Del Toro, for example, is currently in New Zealand directing Peter Jackson’s follow-up to his wildly successful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit.” It would appear that the Mexican trio have created an ideal creative environment for themselves, Cha Cha Cha has been criticized for forgetting their Mexican heritage in the rush to embrace Hollywood. It is not a criticism they take lightly. Watch Cuaron, Bernal and Garcia talking about “Rudo y Cursi” “I don’t care about Mexican films, about indie films, about Hollywood films,” says Alfonso. “Just good or bad movies. “Yes, it’s great that we have a common background as Mexican creators, but once you are a creator you have a common language with creators from all around the world.” For del Toro, the company will extend the influence of Mexican cinema not diminish it: “We want to give Mexican cinema, if you want to call it that, the credentials and right to exist in world cinema. “People don’t think twice when [Italian filmmaker] Bernardo Bertolucci is doing a movie about China called ‘The Last Emperor.’ “But in your mind, Latin American filmmakers are only doing Latin American films. We’re trying to show that it’s important to have roots, but not borders.” The bittersweet drama has played to big laughs all over Mexico and the U.S., but for its makers, it is not simply a comedy. “People talk about this film as if it’s a comedy but I question that,” says Alfonso. “The elements are very dramatic and actually very tragic, and the ending has a very bittersweet tone.” According to del Toro, the movie “says there’s a way to be comfortable with failure, and finding you’re emotionally more satisfied in failing.” Failure though, is not an issue overly burdening Cha Cha Cha’s “three amigos,” — their second film, “Biutiful,” set in Barcelona, directed by Inarritu and starring Javier Bardem is currently being edited in Spain. Alfonso told CNN his next movie would be shot in France and Scotland, and would be in French and English, though that too “will be a Cha Cha Cha film.” Carlos Cuaron is the only one who is unhappy, despite the unprecedented success of his directorial debut. “For me it’s difficult,” he says. “Whenever I see the movie, I only see the flaws. Nobody else sees them.”

“Not even your mother” asks Bernal. “No, not my mother,” says the director. “She thinks I’m a genius.”