Friday, December 22, 2006


Yesterday on “Charlie Rose” we saw the greatest interview with Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón, three innovative Mexican filmmakers who are also clearly good friends. Charlie was almost irrelevant to the discussion, as the three enthusiastically talked about themes and styles and stories in their work. What was interesting to note, in spite of the well-deserved fame each has achieved, was that they talked very little about their own work; each seemed more interested in describing and discussing the work of his friends. This made for an even richer discussion, I think, and of course it depended on the intimate knowledge each man had of his friends and their ideas, as well as a refreshing lack of ego.

At one point, towards the end, Charlie asked if they ever felt competitive, given their prominence and the fact that their films tend to be nominated for similar awards. This struck me as a rather unnecessary question, since the nature of the previous hour’s discussion had made it perfectly clear that the three were far more mutually supportive than anything, but then I decided that that itself was probably what Charlie was trying to highlight. They seemed a bit surprised by the question, but then responded that of course they weren’t competitive, and in fact they each at some point had withdrawn from various competitions in the interest of highlighting another’s work. What impressed me the most was Cuarón’s simple, honest comment: “When you can transform envy into admiration, that’s incredibly liberating.”

The LWI, who is Spanish, immediately remarked that that sort of attitude was far more common among Hispanics than among Anglo-Saxons. I suspect he’s right, and isn’t that sad? Certainly we collectively celebrate hard work and individual accomplishment, and that’s important, but it also lends itself to a zero-sum attitude, where my win is your loss – and that in turn cultivates one-upmanship and envy. I’ve noticed this working in other ways, in that Americans generally center conversations around their jobs and their accomplishments, while Spaniards will almost never discuss their work, because it doesn’t have that much to do with their identity. I’m making huge generalizations here, and I know there are any number of exceptions. But I was so taken with the way these three men talked to each other, and more importantly how genuinely they listened to each other, and I wish we could liberate ourselves to celebrate each other that way a little more often.

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