Mexican cinema has been flourishing for the last decade thanks to the international success of such innovative directors as Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and actors Salma Hayek and Gael Garcia Bernal. Hollywood has also taken notice, with major studios luring the talent. But the cinematic cross-pollination is nothing new. In the silent era, Hollywood invited Mexican movie stars Dolores Del Rio, Lupe Velez, Ramon Navarro and Lupita Tovar to the major studios. And though Cantinflas didn't achieve the success that he did in Mexico, the comedian stole the 1956 Oscar-winning best picture, "Around the World in 80 Days," from under the dapper nose of David Niven.
"Made in Mexico: The Legacy of the Mexican Cinema," which opens Friday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, pays tribute to the last 100 years of the country's cinematic heritage. Presented in conjunction with the L.A.-based Cervantes Center of Arts & Letters, the exhibit offers a multimedia approach to documenting a rich and varied history, says academy programmer Ellen Harrington. "There's a fair amount of video material," she says. "There are examples of everything from early newsreel-type footage all the way up to contemporary releases. We are so close to Mexico, it is time we pay attention to the subject." The show includes film posters and photographs, as well as three-dimensional artifacts from the family of Spanish-born director Luis Bunuel, who made several films in Mexico and became a Mexican citizen, and costumes from Tovar, grandmother of "About a Boy" filmmakers Chris and Paul Weitz. Captions with each display are in English and Spanish, a first for an academy exhibit.