What We Learned From Alfonso Cuarón And Emmanuel Lubezki’s Tribeca Back-And-Forth


Well, someone’s name had to go first. But while the screen at the SVA Theatre read “Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki,” and the Academy Award-winning cinematographer was technically tasked with interviewing Cuarón, it was clear that the men regard each other as equals in every respect — artistically, creatively, and as human beings. The two tremendously accomplished creators sat down for a jovial back-and-forth that stretched from Cuarón’s youngest days to the pressures of picking up the Harry Potter series last night as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, with an easy rapport between the two old friends, who first became acquainted as teenagers.

Below, we cherrypicked some of the highlights from this marvelous meeting of the minds between Cuarón and Lubezki.

1. Making movies is pretty much Alfonso Cuarón’s destiny

The esteemed filmmaker knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life by age six, as he tells it. He wanted to make movies from the earliest time he could remember watching movies, and his cinephilia consumed totally as he grew into his teen years. By the time he made the acquaintance of the fellow known around the neighborhood in Mexico as “El Chivo,” or “the goat,” he was already talking about the use of color in Michelangelo Antonioni’s filmography. (And usually doing so while surrounded by a rapt audience of local girls.) He cultivated a great interest in world cinema during his adolescence, taking in the classics from Japan, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Hollywood. Fun fact: Lubezki turned Cuarón on to the Talking Heads.

2. Emmanuel Lubezki is a pretty emotional guy

Over the course of the conversation, Lubezki recounted numerous separate instances in which he shed a tear while working, playacting overwhelming emotionality while recreating the moment of the first time he yelled “ACTION!” He and Cuarón are comparably effusive about one another: Cuarón confessed that he always believed he would end up working as the director of photography for Lubezki and not the other way around, and Lubezki admitted her prefers working with Cuarón more than his other frequent collaborator, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, because The Revenant director reportedly insists on more takes.

3. They started from the bottom (and are now here) 

The two fondly looked back on getting their start in TV on a “Mexican Twilight Zone we called The Toilet Zone,” ribbing with one another, “The shot’s not working because of your lighting!” “The shot’s not working because of your shitty blocking!” They maintained this playful spirit as they made mention of a trip to Los Angeles that involved staying at a seedy motel where there would be a shooting later that night. The men haven’t forgotten their humble beginnings, either, self-effacing throughout the entire event. Cuarón described his Solo Con Tu Pareja and Great Expectations as “failed films,” and both men confided that they have felt like impostors over the course of their careers.

4. Cuarón doesn’t know why Lubezki has turned to the dark side

Though there’s no hard feelings between the two artists, Cuarón did call his friend and collaborator out for making the switch from shooting on film to digital. The argument has become somewhat contentious in the film community, with some praising the texture and familiarity of celluloid while others embrace new technology, and Cuarón was disappointed to see Lubezki shift to new technology in recent films. But the man works the way he works, so long as it works. Cuarón also outed Lubezki for working completely without shot lists or storyboards, as well. For both men, the method’s almost beside the point. It flows through them.