LOS ANGELES -- Acclaimed screenwriter-director Pedro Almod var, the most influential Spanish filmmaker of the last three decades, is set to receive the Writers Guild of America West's Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement, recognizing an international writer who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriter. Almod var will be honored at the WGAW's 2015 Writers Guild Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 14.
"Almod var the first name is almost unnecessary is a genius, is a flower, is a guiding light: the last, best son of Bu uel and so much more than that. His screenplays, which he directs with passion and fine care, have taught us about the exteriors of his native land and the interiors of our own hearts. From the early, manic experimental Super-8 work to the breakthrough Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, his titles are as evocative as most people's screenplays. Yet for all their antic energy, Almod var's films are deeply spiritual: watching his disturbing, mysterious, heart-rending Talk to Her is to understand, perhaps for the first time, the full meaning of grace. An Almod var screenplay is a running leap off a Gaudi balcony, it flips, soars, ascends, careens, tumbles, falls always landing, astonishingly and astonished, on its feet," said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman.
Over the course of his filmmaking career, Almod var has written, directed, and produced nearly two dozen feature films, each exploring nuanced facets of family, identify, sexuality, and gender and often defined by strong central female characters, including the feminist romantic comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), a major international success which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not in the English Language and won the Silver Medallion at the Telluride Film Festival, as well as the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and Best Screenplay (Golden Osella) at the Venice Film Festival; Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989); High Heels (1991); Kika (1993), which won France's Cesar for Best Foreign Film; The Flower of My Secret (1995); Live Flesh (1997), his first screenplay adapted from a book, Ruth Rendell's novel, which earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not the English Language; All About My Mother (1999), which earned BAFTA's David Lean Award for Direction for the film, as well as Best Film Not in the English Language as well as a nomination for Best Original Screenplay and won Best Director prize at 1999 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the "Prize of the Ecumenical Jury" for the film, plus a Cesar for Best European Film and a Lumiere Award for Best Foreign Film, also named as LAFCA's Best Foreign Film that year.
Continuing to create uncompromising, singular work in the new millennium, Almod var's oeuvre during the last decade has included such films as his unsettling, hypnotic Talk to Her (2002), which incorporates elements of silent filmmaking and modern dance, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and received an Oscar nomination for Best Director, as well as earned a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Not in the English Language, a Cesar for Best European Union Film, and a LAFCA Award for Best Director; Bad Education (2004), based on his own boarding school childhood experiences, which earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not in the English Language, as well as Independent Spirit nomination for Best Foreign Film; Volver (2006), starring Penelope Cruz (who earned a Best Actress Oscar nom for her lead performance), which won Best Screenplay at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, which won Hollywood Film Awards' Hollywood World Award, as well as earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not in the English Language; and Broken Embraces (2009), which received BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not in the English Language; and his first excursion into physiological horror, The Skin I Live In (2011) which eerily echoes director Georges Franju's 1960 French horror film Eyes Without a Face that scored the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language, as well as the "Award of the Youth" at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Beyond his most recent film, I'm So Excited (2013), Almod var is currently prepping to film his next feature, Silencio, later this spring.
Almod var was born in 1949 in the small town of Calzada de Calatrava in the impoverished region of Spain. At the age of eight, he was sent to study at a religious boarding school in Estremadura, where he would discover the cinema instead. "Cinema became my real education, much more than the one I received from the priest," Almod var recalled years later in an interview, as his influences ranged from Luis Bu uel and Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder and Andy Warhol's Factory.
Moving to Madrid in 1967 as an aspiring filmmaker, he initially survived by selling used items at local flea markets. In the early '70s, Almod var grew interested in experimental cinema and theater, collaborating with the vanguard theatrical group Los Goliardios, where he performed in his first professional roles and met actress and muse Carmen Maura, who would ultimately star in many of his later films. Madrid's thriving alternative culture scene tapped Almod var's literary talents and, under a pseudonym, he penned articles for major newspapers and magazines such as El Pais and La Luna, as well as publishing a novella, Fire in the Guts. He later published a collection of short stories, The Dream of Reason, under his own name and was also a member of the parodic punk rock group, Almod var & McNamara.
Unable to afford tuition for film school not to mention Spain's Official Film School had been closed during the early 1970s under the Franco dictatorship necessity became the mother of invention, as a young Almod var finally saved enough money from working at his first "serious" job at the National Phone Company to buy his own Super 8 camera at age 22. He soon devoted himself to creating short films with his circle of friends. From 1972 to 1978 the "premieres" of these shorts on the nightclub circuit playfully infamous for their overtly sexual narratives became fixtures in Spain's rapidly growing underground culture. Almod var eventually became a pivotal figure in La Movida Madrilena, the pop cultural movement of late-'70s Madrid following the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco whose regime had suffocated artistic expression.
After writing and directing nearly a dozen short films, many of them charged with the sexual and political freedom of the period, including Two Whores, or A Love Story That Ends in Marriage, The Fall of Sodom, and Sex Comes and Goes, he made first full-length feature, the campy cult comedy Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980), which was originally shot on 16mm and later blown-up to 35mm for theatrical release.
After a trio of formative features the comedy Labyrinth of Passion (1982), religious satire Dark Habits (1983), and black comedy What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984) Almod var would achieve his early cinema breakthrough in America by delivering a duo of dark, erotic dramas back to back: Matador (1986), which received a "Special Award" from the National Society of Film Critics, and Law of Desire (1987), featuring a breakout performance by a young Antonio Banderas, which won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as receiving the New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).
Soon Almod var's signature style and vision would enrapture audiences and critics alike around the globe, as the Spanish filmmaker quickly became the toast of world cinema, establishing his signature "Almod var" sensibility, ignited by passion, drama, and desire and informed by equal parts melodrama, dynamic color, and pop culture references.
In 1986, he and his brother, Augustin Almod var, established their own independent film production company, El Deseo, S.A., which has subsequently produced all of Almod var's films.
In 1997, Almod var received the French Legion of Honour, as well as the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1999. That same year, Almod var received an Honorary Cesar. In 2000, the Palm Springs International Film Festival bestowed the filmmaker with its Career Achievement Award. In 2001, he was elected as an honorary member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), as well as received an honorary doctoral degree from Harvard University for his contribution to the arts. In 2006, he was awarded with the Prince of Asturias Award of the Arts. Most recently, he received an honorary European Film Award for European Achievement to World Cinema in 2013.
Named after the influential French filmmaker, the WGAW's Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement is honors international screenwriters working outside the U.S. and in other languages. Previous WGAW Jean Renoir Award honorees include late Italian screenwriters Suso D'Amico (2009) and Tonino Guerra (2011), and a quartet of iconic Japanese filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ry z Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni (2013).
For press photos of Pedro Almod var, click here.
The Writers Guild Awards honor outstanding writing in film, television, new media, videogames, news, radio, promotional, and graphic animation categories. The awards will be presented jointly at simultaneous ceremonies on Saturday, February 14, 2015, in Los Angeles at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and in New York City at the Edison Ballroom.
For more information about the 2015 Writers Guild Awards, please visit www.wga.org or www.wgaeast.org.
For media inquiries about the 2013 Writers Guild Awards Los Angeles show, please contact Gregg Mitchell in the WGAW Communications Department at: (323) 782-4651 or email: Gregg Mitchell.
For media inquiries about the 2015 Writers Guild Awards New York City show, please contact Jason Gordon in the WGAE Communications Department at (212) 767-7809 or email: Jason Gordon.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The Guilds negotiate and administer contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of their members; conduct programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to writers; and present writers' views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America West, visit www.wga.org. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.