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Guillermo Arriaga

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Guillermo Arriaga
Guillermo Arriaga, March 2009
Born (1958-03-13) 13 March 1958 (age 66)
Mexico City, Mexico
Other namesGuillermo Arriaga Jordán
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, author, director, producer
Years active1991–present

Guillermo Arriaga Jordán (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡiˈʎeɾmo aˈrjaɣa]; born 13 March 1958) is a Mexican novelist, screenwriter, director and producer. Self-defined as "a hunter who works as a writer," he is best known for his Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay nominations for Babel and his screenplay for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which received the 2005 Cannes Best Screenplay Award.

Early life[edit]

Arriaga was born on March 13, 1958 in Mexico City. At the age of 13, he lost his sense of smell after a brutal street fight that would later serve as inspiration for some of his work.[1] Before engaging in his writing career, Arriaga tried out a variety of jobs and professions, including boxing and playing basketball and professional soccer. He completed a B.A. in Communications and a M.A. in Psychology at the Ibero-American University.


Guillermo Arriaga at the Santiago International Book Fair 2017.

While teaching at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Arriaga met future film director Alejandro González Iñárritu and decided to make a feature length, multiplot film set in Mexico City. The result was Amores Perros (2000). The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film as well as a BAFTA Film Award for "Best Film not in the English Language," the "Critics Week Grand Prize" and "Young Critics Award" at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, as well as many other awards from festivals and societies around the world. [citation needed]

The success of Amores Perros earned Arriaga and Iñárritu an invitation to the U.S. to work on the Universal/Focus Features film 21 Grams, starring Benicio del Toro, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Del Toro and Watts received Academy Award nominations for their performances. [citation needed]

González Iñárritu and Arriaga collaborated on a third movie, Babel, to form a trilogy with his first two pictures focusing on the theme of death.[2] However, friction between writer and director led to González Iñárritu banning Arriaga from attending the 2006 Cannes screening of Babel.[3] Nevertheless, González Iñárritu and Arriaga both received Academy Award nominations for their work.

On 19 January 2007, the film adaptation of his book El Búfalo de la Noche directed by Jorge Hernandez Aldana premiered at the Sundance film festival. It features a score by Omar Rodríguez-López of The Mars Volta.

On 29 August 2008, The Burning Plain was premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Arriaga wrote the script and pitched it to American producers, who talked with some directors. Arriaga eventually directed the film, starring Charlize Theron.[4]

Arriaga objects to being called a "guionista" (Spanish for "screenwriter");[5] he advocates for screenwriters being referred to as "writers" and screenplays being referred to as "works of film." He has clarified that he has no objections to the term's use in English; his issue with "guionista" is that in Spanish the term has the wrong connotations since the word also used to describe people who write tour guidebooks.[6]

In 2011, Mexican producers including Arriaga, Alex Garcia, and Lucas Akoskin unveiled "Heartbeat of the World," an international cinema project with four films tackling topics including religion, sexuality, politics and drug addiction.[7] Each of the four feature films consist of a collaborative set of 10 shorts. The first film in the series—Words with Gods—includes contributions from Arriaga, Emir Kusturica, Brazil's Jose Padilha, Australia's Warwick Thornton, Iran's Bahman Ghobadi, India's Mira Nair, and Japan's Hideo Nakata.[7] The three other films are the "drug-themed Into the Bloodstream; Encounters, a look at sexual identity and expression; and Polis, which delves into political topics." Financing for all four movies have been secured, with each produced in 14 months.[7]

Guillermo Arriaga won the Premio Alfaguara de Novela for his novel, Salvar el fuego on January 24, 2020.[8]

Non-profit work[edit]

Since 2005, Guillermo Arriaga has been one of the patrons of DreamAgo, an international screenwriters association.

Personal life[edit]

Arriaga is a teetotaler.[9]


Feature films[edit]

Year Film Director Writer Producer Note
1999 Un Dulce Olor a Muerte No Yes No
2000 Amores perros No Yes Associate
2003 21 Grams No Yes Associate
2005 The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada No Yes No Also actor as a bear hunter.
2006 Babel No Yes No
2007 La Noche del Bufalo No Yes Yes
2008 The Burning Plain Yes Yes No
2014 Rio, I Love You Segment Director Segment Writer No
Words with Gods Segment Director Segment Writer Segment Producer
2015 From Afar No Yes Yes
2016 On the Milky Road No No Executive

Short films[edit]

Year Film Director Writer Producer Notes
1987 Campeones Sin Límites Yes Yes No Documentary short film
Also editor
2001 Powder Keg No Yes No
2004 Los Elefantes Nunca Olvidan No No Yes
2008 Dusk No Yes Yes
2010 El Pozo Yes Yes No
2013 Broken Night Yes Yes No
Zero Hour No Yes No
Fin del Mundo No No Executive
2015 Desde Abajo Yes Yes No
En defensa propia No Yes No
2017 Libre de Culpa No Yes No
2018 B-167-980-098 No Yes No
2019 No One Left Behind Yes Yes Executive
La Hora Cero No Yes Executive

Selected works[edit]

Year of Publication Literary work Genre
2023 Extrañas Novel
2020 Salvar el fuego Novel
2016 El salvaje, ISBN 6073148429 Novel
2007 The Guillotine Squad, translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-9681-8 Novel
2007 A Sweet Scent of Death, translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-9679-6 Novel
2007 Night Buffalo, translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-8186-1 Novel
1999 El Búfalo de la Noche, ISBN 0-7432-8666-9 Novel
1994 Un Dulce Olor a Muerte, ISBN 958-04-6169-4 Novel
1991 Escuadrón Guillotina Novel


  1. ^ Whipp, Glenn (20 September 2009). "Guillermo Arriaga tells his story". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Contrary to widespread reports, Arriaga did not come of age in a violent Mexico City neighborhood ("I can't tell you how many times I've changed that on Wikipedia," he says, "only for it to be changed back a half-hour later"), though he did, in fact, lose his sense of smell at 13 in a street brawl.
  2. ^ Damon Wise (3 October 2015). "Guillermo Arriaga on Screenwriting, His Novel, Returning to Directing". Variety. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Story Behind Guillermo Arriaga's Fight With Alejandro González Iñárritu | FirstShowing.net". www.firstshowing.net. September 2008. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  4. ^ David Gritten, "The Burning Plain," The Telegraph, 13 August 2009.
  5. ^ TV interview at KUSI in San Diego on 10 September 2009
  6. ^ Guillermo Arriaga (Guillermo Arriaga Jordán) – Author, Screenwriter, Director and Producer
  7. ^ a b c Hecht, John (13 October 2011). "Mexican Film Project 'Heartbeat of the World' Has Global Pulse". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  8. ^ Guillermo Arriaga, premio Alfaguara de novela con una historia de violencia y amor en el México actual Luis Alemany, El Mundo (Madrid), 24 Jan 2020
  9. ^ Junieles, John J. (23 April 2006). "Los tatuajes sirven para esconder cicatrices: Sobre la novela El búfalo de la noche, de Guillermo Arriaga Jordán". Letralia (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2024. No fumo ni bebo. Soy abstemio desde niño. Detesto a los que dicen: "Desconfío de los que no beben alcohol". (I don't smoke or drink. I've been a teetotaler since I was a child. I detest those who say, "I distrust those who don't drink alcohol.")

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