BY: Manori Ravindran (Guest contributer/Fellow fille!)
Uxbal is a complicated character. Making a living from the dangerous business of human trafficking, he oversees a group of Chinese factory workers and undocumented Senegalese immigrants. Though he exploits them, Uxbal treats the workers with respect and cares for their families. He is also a medium who connects with those who have passed into the afterlife. The character’s clashing roles are confusing. Should we hate him or pity him? Or should we do both?
The only good things in Uxbal’s life are his children, Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib) and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella), who bounce back and forth between him and his troubled wife, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez). The relationship with his children helps us understand what drives him to go to such measures to provide for his family long after he’s gone.
Biutiful is Iñárritu’s first feature film since Babel (2006). The two are similar in their representations of a globalized world. Babel connected the lives of four families spread around the world who are affected by the same series of events. Biutiful is more localized. The film is set in Barcelona, but the issues it tackles, such as the exploiting of undocumented immigrants, are global in scope.
The tragic nature of these circumstances is what makes the film so upsetting. When things go horribly wrong in the factory basement housing the Chinese workers, Uxbal’s life begins to unravel. Biutiful quickly switches from gritty to unbearable, showing human suffering that is, at times, impossible to watch.
Although the film has garnered mixed reactions from critics and audiences, the Academy has taken well to Iñárritu’s drama. Biutiful recently received an Academy Award nomination in the foreign-language category. Javier Bardem also got a Best Actor nod for his role. It’s the first time an actor in the category has been nominated for a performance entirely in Spanish.