About Guillermo Arriaga…   Leave a comment

Guillermo Arriaga…

Guillermo Arriaga
Born March 13, 1958 (1958-03-13) (age 51)
Mexico City, Mexico
Other name(s) Guillermo Arriaga Jordán
Occupation Screenwriter, author, director, producer
Years active 1991 – present

Guillermo Arriaga Jordán (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡiˈʎermo aˈrjaɣa]) (born 13 March 1958) is a Mexican author, screenwriter, director and producer. He received the 2005 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay Award for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.


Arriaga was born in Mexico City and spent his childhood in one of the most violent sectors of the metropolis. At the age of 13, he lost the sense of smell after a brutal street fight that would later serve as inspiration for some of his work.

Before engaging in his writing career, Arriaga tried out a variety of jobs and professions, amongst which were that of boxer, basketball player and professional soccer player.

He completed a B.A. in Communications and a M.A. in Psychology at the Ibero-American University, where he taught several courses in media studies before joining the ITESM. Self-defined as “a hunter who works as a writer,” he authored Amores Perros, received a BAFTA Best Screenplay nomination for 21 Grams and received the 2005 Cannes Best Screenplay Award for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Arriaga also had an acting cameo in the latter film as a bear hunter.

While teaching at the Universidad Iberoamericana Guillermo 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 (1999), one of the most heavily praised films in the recent history of Mexican cinema. The film, with its gritty look at the underbelly of Mexican life 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.

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

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

On January 19, 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 an original score by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta. The main title sequence for this movie was created by Canadian studio Mucho Motion and One Size from the Netherlands.

An award-winning screenwriter, Arriaga has repeatedly stated that he hates being called a „screenwriter” and that he hates screenplays being referred to as such. He claims that he and all other screenwriters are writers, and the title of screenwriter diminishes the work of screenwriters. He now continuously advocates for screenwriters being referred to as „writers” and screenplays being referred to as „Works of Film”. However, in a TV interview at KUSI in San Diego on September 10, 2009, he clarified that he did not really mind the English word „screenwriter.” It was the word in Spanish which he did not like. The Spanish word most often associated with screenwriters,”guionista”, is also used to describe people who write tour guidebooks. He does not think of himself as a guidebook author.


  • Un Dulce Olor a Muerte (1999)
  • Amores perros (2000) ISBN 0-571-21415-0
  • The Hire: Powder Keg (2001)
  • 21 Grams (2004) ISBN 0-571-22266-8
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
  • Babel (2006)
  • El Búfalo de la Noche (2007)
  • The Burning Plain (2009)

Guillermo Arriaga, September 2009


  • Escuadrón Guillotina (1991)
  • Un Dulce Olor a Muerte (1994) ISBN 958-04-6169-4
  • El Búfalo de la Noche (1999) ISBN 0-7432-8666-9
  • Night Buffalo (2007), translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-8186-1
  • A Sweet Scent of Death (2007), translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-9679-6
  • The Guillotine Squad (2007), translated by Alan Page ISBN 0-7432-9681-8

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