Juan Rulfo’s Journey through Film

This post features the work of Douglas Weatherford, Spanish and Portuguese Department

This year (2017) Mexico celebrates the centennial of one of its most beloved and iconic authors, Juan Rulfo (1917-1986). Although best known for two groundbreaking pieces of narrative fiction (El Llano en llamas, 1953 and Pedro Páramo, 1955), Rulfo was also an avid photographer and film aficionado who participated in his nation’s film industry as a scriptwriter and reviewer, as an historical consultant, as a location scout, and as a one-time actor. Weatherford has spent the last decade helping to rewrite what is known about Rulfo’s creative legacy by exploring the author’s connection to the visual image, especially film.


Weatherford has written numerous articles on Rulfo and film and is in the process of publishing multiple book-length projects on the topic. Of particular interest is Weatherford’s translation of Rulfo’s second novel, El gallo de oro, a work that has suffered marginalization in Rulfo’s canon in large measure due to its misclassification as a film text (“texto para cine”). Appearing in May as The Golden Cockerel and Other Writings (Deep Vellum publishing), the novel will be accompanied by a selection of short works that Weatherford chose in association with the Fundación Juan Rulfo and members of the Rulfo family. Beyond his publication agenda, Weatherford has been proactive in finding other venues to promote Rulfo’s work in the visual arts. In 2006, for example, Weatherford was the faculty curator (working with two MA candidates supported by a MEG grant) of an exhibition of Rulfo’s photography, titled “Photographing Silence: Juan Rulfo’s Mexico,” that was displayed for five months at the BYU Museum of Art. Recently, Weatherford has been working with Juan Rulfo’s youngest son, Juan Carlos, who is completing a seven-part documentary of the author’s life and work that, in 2017, will run, among other places, on Mexican television. The award-winning cineaste asked Weatherford to consult as a content expert on the chapter dedicated to Rulfo and film. As part of that project, Weatherford interviewed on camera numerous filmmakers who have attempted adaptations of Rulfo’s fiction, was interviewed himself, and accompanied Juan Carlos and his crew to a few locations where Rulfo adaptations have been made.

Although his research concentrates heavily on one individual, what Weatherford most enjoys about this line of investigation is its expansive and eclectic nature. To be sure, Rulfo’s appearance on the literary scene in the mid-twentieth century and his subsequent dabbling in filmic waters make him a fascinating intersection between visual and literary arts in Latin America and beyond. In one of his publications, by way of illustration, Weatherford shows that Rulfo wrote Pedro Páramo partially in homage to the movie Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Just as Welles’s masterpiece served as a magnet to draw the attention of one of Mexico’s most important authors, Rulfo’s literary output seduced a number of talented individuals (including Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez) who hoped to work with the innovative novelist on film projects or to adapt his work to the silver screen.

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