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Whose film is it anyway? A battle over the auteur status between Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga

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Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter and novelist Guillermo Arriaga worked together on three, highly successful films - Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006). Yet, theirs was a troubled partnership and ended in a public feud. Arriaga stressed his creative primacy in the projects they worked on and downplayed the input of the director, while Iñárritu underplayed Arriaga’s contribution after Amores perros. Finally, during the making of Babel, theses tensions came to a head and their collaboration came to an acrimonious end over irreconcilably different notions of what we might term ‘creative credit’. This well-known collaboration, feud and separation tell a story of creative partnerships, film industry working practices, power plays and media manipulations. This article examines the public statements of the two men and explores their story. It also asks a series of questions that relate to their specific relationship, but also to broader power dynamics between directors and the screenwriters with whom they work when both have auteurist ambitions: what does the Iñárritu/Arriaga dispute reveal about discourses of auteurism and its construction?; What is the role of the screenwriter and his/her access to an auteurist status in the film industry?
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)19-36
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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    Rights statement: © Deborah Shaw, 2021. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas, Volume 18, Number 1, 1 March 2021, pp. 19-36 (18), DOI:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 569 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 1/01/22

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