María Candelaria: The story of the Mexican film that won the first edition of the Cannes festival

María Candelaria: The story of the Mexican film that won the first edition of the Cannes festival
María Candelaria: The story of the Mexican film that won the first edition of the Cannes festival

When the first edition of the Cannes International Film Festival was held in 1946 Maria Candelaria —Mexican film starring Dolores del Río and Pedro Armendáriz— was recognized with the Grand Prix, the award that years later would become the Palme d’Or. The film directed by Emilio The Indian Fernández portrays the splendor of Xochimilco and has gone down in history as one of the most important of Mexican Golden Cinema.

In an interview with journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano, Fernández explained that the film was a gift for the actress. Since she did not have money to buy flowers for her birthday, the filmmaker wrote the script on thirteen napkins while he ate at a restaurant. “When I presented it to her, she arrived with Diego Rivera who read it and loved it, he told her, ‘Lolita, you have to do it,’” she told Soler, although it is well known that The Indian He used to exaggerate his anecdotes to feed his own myth.

Around this time, Dolores del Río had returned to Mexico after becoming disillusioned with the supporting roles in which she was being typecast in Hollywood. Furthermore, she had just ended her romantic relationship with Orson Welles, so she decided to give her career a chance in Mexico, where she began to hang out with intellectuals and artists. Fernández was already an admirer of the work she had done in American silent films, so he offered her the lead role in Wild flower. After this experience she became his muse and they collaborated again on Maria Candelaria.

The film has all the characteristic elements of Emilio Fernández’s cinema: a nationalist narrative, the indigenous figure as a symbol of innocence, the boss as an antagonistic character and photography that highlights the landscapes of rural Mexico. In fact, in Cannes they also recognized Gabriel Figueroa – another frequent ally of Fernández – for Best Cinematography. The plot takes place shortly before the Mexican Revolution and tells the story of María Candelaria, the daughter of a prostitute who is rejected by the community. Her only company is Lorenzo Rafael, whom she plans to marry soon, however, the town chief ruins her plans out of jealousy of her. After this the woman becomes ill and serious problems arise for the couple. Finally everything ends in tragedy for the lovers, another common detail in the films of The Indian. After the success of Maria CandelariaDolores del Río was selected as the first woman to be part of the jury at the Cannes festival in 1957.

The actress made more films with the team made up of Fernández, Figueroa and Armendáriz: The Abandoned, Bugambilia and The Malquerida, but he also began working with other Mexican directors such as Roberto Gavaldón, Ismael Rodríguez and Alejandro Galindo. Over the years there was speculation about the true nature of the relationship between Dolores del Río and Emilio Fernández, it was also said that their professional dynamic was complicated because she never reciprocated his love, but this was never confirmed and, at least in public, They always expressed their admiration for each other and what they built in the national and international film industry.

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