Mike Fleming

This Sunday, director Werner Herzog will conduct a Q&A with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu after a screening at the Directors Guild headquarters on Sunset Blvd at 7:30 PM. Herzog rarely does such things, but was moved  to take part in the DGA members-only-event after seeing the film last month. ”I respect Werner and his films so much, because he takes risks and doesn’t compromise,” Inarritu told me. “This was a surprise and an honor, and it helps in the battle to get this film noticed.” Directors are now rallying behind the prestige film and helping it build slow momentum. Biutiful is Mexico’s submission for Best Foreign Language film, and the picture opened its all-categories Oscar campaign with an event last Saturday, hosted by Guillermo del Toro for Inarritu and his below-the-line collaborators Rodrigo Prieto, Gustavo Santaolalla, and Stephen Mirrione. Julian Schnabel showed his support at a Soho House screening in New York last Tuesday, and Robert Benton quizzed the director at DGA headquarters in New York the following day. Among the upcoming events will be a big screening in December that will be followed by a Q&A with Inarritu and Bardem, who’ll be grilled by Sean Penn.

The filmmakers are moved by Inarritu’s difficulty attracting attention for his picture. When Biutiful unveiled at Cannes, the knee-jerk reaction was to label the film too unrelentingly bleak. The storyline is certainly dark: Javier Bardem plays a street hustler who traffics in undocumented African street peddlers and Chinese sweat shop workers and stays one step ahead of the cops in Spain. And, oh yeah, he’s dying of a terminal illness and has no idea what will become of the children he cherishes. Whether it was the subject matter or the subtitles, distributors shied away from the film for four months, despite Bardem winning Best Actor at Cannes. Finally, Mickey Liddell agreed to fund P&A because he couldn’t get the movie out of his head, and Roadside Attractions signed on to distribute. Liddell told me he sparked to the well drawn characters, and the hopeful message behind the dark storyline.

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