Hailed as the “nestor” of New Mexican Cinema (1989-94), and son of Mexico’s most prominent producer, Arturo Ripstein was born and bred into cinema. His early forays into cinema were already extraordinary, defined notably by his friendship with Luis Bunuel, having assisted on Bunuel’s El angel exterminador (1962) while in college. Ripstein made his directorial debut shortly after with Tiempo de morir (1965), a Mexican Western written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Fuentes. Ripstein began a tradition of working with prized Latin American writers, until he met screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego, who he continues to collaborate with. In Bleak Street (2015), the pair's latest movie, two prostitutes are burdened with bad marriages and financial problems. Wounded and narcissistic, the prostitutes drug and rob dwarf twins working as luchadores. A tragicomic plot, along with characters who are at once painful and pleasurable to watch, has become the signature style of Ripstein. Fearless and subversive, Ripstein and Garciadiego’s films artfully transform popular genres – the Western, the "family film" and, above all, melodrama – into devastating attacks against the inveterate prejudice and myopia deeply-rooted in Mexican culture and history. Although the films of Ripstein and Garciadiego remain distinctly iconoclastic and controversial, Ripstein speaks of their process as palpably harmonious. In an interview with Chicano scholar Sergio de la Mora, he mentions: “My work begins when her work is finished so we do not really interfere with each other, we collaborate.”
The Harvard Film Archive welcomed Arturo Ripstein and Paz Alicia Garciadiego in 2013 for a retrospective of their work, and again in 2015 for the premiere of Bleak Street. The Arturo Ripstein Papers, a collection of screenplays, photographs, and other papers relating to the director and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego’s life, is held at the Houghton Library. – Wen Zhuang
A finding aid for the collection is available here.