Films & Schedules

  • The Burning Plain

  • Guillermo Arriaga

English, Spanish
111 minutes

Production Company:
2929 Productions
Executive Producer:
Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Marc Butan, Charlize Theron, Alisa Tager, Ray Angelic
Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Guillermo Arriaga
Production Designer:
Dan Leigh
Robert Elswit, John Toll
Craig Wood
Scott Wolf, Karen Vassar
Hans Zimmer, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Principal Cast: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawrence, Joaquim de Almeida, Tessa Ia

International Sales Agent:
2929 International

Friday September 0508:30PM WINTER GARDEN THEATRE Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Sunday September 0709:45AM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Wednesday September 1011:00AM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

A one-man revolution in cinematic storytelling, Academy Award®-nominee Guillermo Arriaga is best known as the screenwriter for director Alenjandro Gonzàlez Iñàrritu's critically acclaimed films Amores perros, 21 Grams and Babel, as well as Tommy Lee Jones's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. In his directorial debut, Arriaga assumes full control of The Burning Plain, as beautifully constructed and emotionally moving as anything he has ever crafted.

The first image is both shocking and striking: an old trailer home in a parched landscape, consumed in a blazing fire. From there, Arriaga doubles back to explore a series of relationships among several characters who at first appear unrelated. Marina (Jennifer Lawrence) is a sixteen-year-old girl in a Mexican border town, coming to terms with her parents' increasingly dysfunctional relationship. Hundreds of miles away in Portland, Oregon, Sylvia (Charlize Theron) is a self-destructive, tormented young woman. As she comes and goes from the high-end restaurant where she works, she is followed by a mysterious man. Back in the southwest, Gina (Kim Basinger, in an intensely affecting role) and Nick (Joaquim de Almeida) are in the throes of a passionate, illicit love affair. And Maria (Tessa Ia) is an adolescent girl on a border-crossing voyage to reunite her estranged mother with her badly injured, hospitalized father. As Arriaga draws us deeper into each character's world, the bonds that unite them begin to come into focus.

Arriaga draws new subtleties from Theron, an actor who has already established an impressive collection of performances. The film's lush, classical look serves as a lovely counterpoint to the daring twists of the story. Shot by cinematographer Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton), The Burning Plain could succeed as a beautiful mood piece alone. But the way Arriaga introduces, observes and connects his characters reveals a director pursuing far more than just style. As in his earlier stories directed by Iñárritu, Arriaga combines audacious narrative decisions with an emotional impact that is direct and straight to the heart.

Michèle Maheux

Guillermo Arriaga was born in Mexico City and received a B.A. in communications and an M.A. in psychology from the Universidad Iberoamericana. He is the author of the award-winning screenplays for Amores perros (00), 21 Grams (01), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (05) and Babel (07). He has directed two short films, Campeones sin límite (97) and Rogelio (00). The Burning Plain (08) is his feature directing debut.

Cadillac People's Choice Award