Friday, August 30, 2013

Betcha Didn't Know...?

Some of the most notable names from the dawn of film and television are of Latino descent. Here are some of them.

In this edition, Latino filmmakers. In addition to people like Louis C.K. and the Weitz brothers (Chris and Paul Weitz), who each have Mexican heritage, respectively, there are the following filmmakers.

Alice Guy-Blaché was born on July 1, 1873 in Saint-Mandé, France to Chilean parents. She is known as the first female director in the motion picture industry and is one of the first directors of narrative films. While pregnant, Guy’s mother traveled to France, where she gave birth to Alice Guy. Following her birth, she was raised by her grandparents until the age of four. In 1877, her mother retrieved her from her grandparents and returned to Chile, where Guy met her father for the first time. In 1879, her father returned Guy to France where she was enrolled in boarding school with two of her sisters. While Guy was at boarding school, her father’s chain of bookstores became bankrupt. This forced Guy’s father to transfer her to a cheaper boarding school. After this both her father and brother died. Following her father’s death, Guy trained as a typist and got her first job as a secretary, starting her career.

In 1894 she was hired by Léon Gaumont to work for a still-photography company as a secretary. The company soon went out of business but Gaumont bought the defunct operation's inventory and began his own company that soon became a major force in the fledgling motion-picture industry in France. She decided to join the new Gaumont Film Company, a decision that led to a pioneering career in filmmaking spanning more than twenty-five years and involving her directing, producing, writing and/or overseeing more than 700 films. From 1896 to 1906, she was Gaumont's head of production and is generally considered to be the first filmmaker to systematically develop narrative filmmaking. In 1906, she made The Life of Christ, a big budget production for the time, which included 300 extras. In addition to this, she was one of the pioneers in the use of audio recordings in conjunction with the images on screen in Gaumont's "Chronophone" system, which used a vertical-cut disc synchronized to the film. An innovator, she employed special effects, using double exposure masking techniques and even running a film backwards. In 1907 she married Herbert Blaché who was soon appointed the production manager for Gaumont's operations in the United States. A year later, she gave birth to their daughter, Sophie.

After working with her husband for Gaumont in the USA, the two struck out on their own in 1910, partnering with George A. Magie in the formation of The Solax Company, the largest pre-Hollywood studio in America. While pregnant with her second child, she completed at least one to three films a week. With production facilities for their new company in Flushing, New York, her husband served as production manager as well as cinematographer and she worked as the artistic director, directing many of its releases. Within two years they had become so successful that they were able to invest more than $100,000 into new and technologically advanced production facilities in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After her divorce and subsequent bankruptcy, she returned to France and never made another film after 1920. In 1930, Gaumont published the history of his company with no mention of any production history before 1907. This upset Guy, prompting her to write a letter to Gaumont, after which he agreed to change the documents. However these changes were never published. The rest of Guy's career and life was dedicated to her children, specifically her elder daughter Simone, with whom she spent much of her later years. In 1953 she was awarded the Légion d'honneur, the highest nonmilitary award France offers. In 1964, she moved back to the U.S.A., and died on March 24, 1968 in Wayne, New Jersey. Her 24-year career (1896-1920) of directing, writing and producing films is the longest career of any of the cinema pioneers.

León Klimovsky was born León Klimovsky Dulfano al estilo latino, on October 16, 1906 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A trained dentist, his real passion was always the cinema. He pioneered Argentine cultural movement known as Cineclub and financed the first movie theater to show art movies. He also founded Argentina's first film club in 1929. After participating as scriptwriter and assistant director of 1944's Se abre el abismo, he filmed his first movie, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Player. Other highlights from this time period include the adaptations of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo and Ernesto Sabato's The Tunnel. During the 1950s, he settled in Spain, where he became a full-time "professional" director. He directed many spaghetti westerns and exploitation films. Horror film fans best remember him for his contributions to Spain's horror film genre, beginning with La Noche de Walpurgis (Walpurgis Night), which is said to have started the Spanish horror film boom of the 1970s. He directed famed Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy in no less than eight films in the 1970s, while also directing other classic horror films such as The Strange Love of the Vampires, The Dracula Saga and The Vampires' Night Orgy. He retired from directing in 1979, at age 73. In 1995, at age 89, he won the "Honor Award" from the Spanish Film Directors Association. He died on April 8, 1996 in Madrid, Spain from a heart attack.

Gaspar Noé, born on December 27, 1963 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a film director and the son of Argentine painter and intellectual Luis Felipe Noé (also known as Yuyo). Raised in France, after his family fled Argentina after a military coup, he graduated from Louis Lumière College and is the visiting professor of film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His film credits include I Stand Alone (1998), Irréversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009). He credits Stanley Kubrick as a big influence and states that viewing that filmmaker's opus 2001: A Space Odyssey as a child changed his life. He is married to French-Bosnian filmmaker Lucile Hadžihalilović. He has won awards from numerous film festivals, including Sitges, Stockholm, Boston Underground, Sarajevo, Avignon and Cannes.

Brett Ratner, born Brett Ratner Presman al estilo latino, on March 28, 1969 in Miami Beach, Florida, is an American film director and producer. He is known for directing the Rush Hour film series, The Family Man, Red Dragon, X-Men: The Last Stand and Tower Heist. He was also a producer on the Fox drama series "Prison Break". The son of the former Marcia Presman, a socialite, and Ronald Ratner, he grew up in a "middle-class Jewish family". His father was the son of a wealthy Miami businessman, while his mother was born in Cuba, and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s with her parents, Fanita and Mario Presman (themselves émigrés to Cuba from Eastern Europe). A 1990 graduate of New York University, he cites the 1980 film Raging Bull, directed by Martin Scorsese, as his inspiration to enter the world of film. He started directing music videos before making the transition to film. Other film credits include Money Talks, Tower Heist and Horrible Bosses. He is currently slated to direct the upcoming action-adventure film Hercules: The Thracian Wars, scheduled for release in 2014.

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