New Directors | New Films
Gael García Bernal: Getting candid about acting

FEST’s 18th edition brought some of cinema’s greatest names to Espinho. Gael García Bernal was one of the highlights of this year’s industry program. With an incredibly astute and reflective oratory, the actor from movies as passionate as Amores Perros (2000), Y Tu Mamá También (2001) e La Mala Educación (2004), chatted with festival attendees about his career and his relationship with both the directors he works with and the characters he plays.

For Gael, the director is the determining factor in choosing his projects, which is why he opened his session by laying out the three strands of directors that have crossed his path. There’s the director that hides behind the camera, which Gael describes as “voyeuristic”, the hybrid director, and the director that puts his whole body and soul into his works. This last kind, Gael says, includes names like Michel Gondry, who he worked with on La Science Des Rêves (2006), and his long-time friend Alejandro González Iñárritu - the director behind Amores Perros, the film that launched the actor’s career, and Babel (2006).

Gael’s filmography is extensive and of enormous quality, which allows him to draw a pretty complete image of the actor-director relationship in all kinds of scenarios. In Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, for example, the rehearsal process was lengthy, but in Pablo Larraín’s Ema, Gael got to set without having read the script. Walter Salles’ Diarios de motocicleta allowed him to embody a global political icon in Che Guevara, while Pedro Almodóvar’s La Mala Educación gave him the chance to play character within a character within a character.

“My characters are my patrimony,” Gael explained. His approach to the art of acting is romantic but never to the point of being impractical. His passion for his profession is clear in his speech and he defends it with fervour. He hates directors that blame their failure on actors and considers fame “the weirdest of animals”.

Firm in his beliefs, Gael is intentional in picking projects with meaning, believing that, in a broader sense, politics has always been a part of his life as a Latin American. As a consequence, his method in preparing for his roles has always been sociological and anthropological. 

Gael’s masterclass ended with a message of hope for the future of cinema in the midst of an increasingly chaotic and urgent world. At Centro Multimeios de Espinho, the audience gave the actor a standing ovation, which he reciprocated with the same enthusiasm. “Let’s do it again, we’re actors after all, no?” he said, asking the people present to repeat the ovation so that he, now standing, could cheer for them too. 

Francisca Tinoco