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In the eyes of the world, ‘Ecuador‘ and ‘cinema‘ are usually not thought of in the same breath. Until 1999, the country’s fitful, century-long attempts at creating a film industry had yet to emulate those of Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil as a presence on the international film scene. All that changed due to the efforts of one ambitious auteur who was so taken by a viewing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at age nine that he went on to study film at USC. Here are seven reasons why Sebastián Cordero has put Ecuadorian cinema on the map.
His 1999 debut with the gritty, Scorsese-like urban allegory “Ratas, ratones, rateros” at the age of 27 saw the feature accepted into 14 international film festivals – a record for an Ecuadorian film, obtaining seven nominations and two awards in the process.
That film, in turn, impressed two of the most successful Spanish-language directors in Hollywood, Guillermo Del Toro, creator of the “Hellboy” series, and Alfonso Cuarón, whose resume includes “Y tu mama, también”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, and “Gravity”. They offered to produce his next film, “Crónicas”.
“Crónicas” was not only the most expensive produced Ecuadorian film to date, but the first to feature internationally-recognized actors such as John Leguizamo and Alfred Molina. It went on to earn nine film festival awards across the world, and attracted the attention of Harrison Ford as a director for an adaptation of the Civil War-themed novel, “Manhunt”.
The success of Cordero’s first two films inspired a new generation of local filmmakers and film enthusiasts, who persuaded the Ecuadorian government to pass a “film law” in 2006 in order to subsidize the creation of a national film industry.
In 2013, Cordero became the first Ecuadorian to direct an English-language film, with the science fiction film “Europa Report”, which the New York Times called “a wondering contemplation of our place in the universe” with “a coherence and clarity foreign to most found-footage projects”.
His latest film, “Sin muertos no hay carnaval”, (“Such is Life in the Tropics” for the North American market) was Ecuador’s official submission to the Academy Awards in the foreign-language film category. It has been positively reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, and is said to be his strongest film yet.
In March of 2017, Sebastián Cordero became the first Ecuadorian filmmaker to be profiled and interviewed in Salon.com.