Famed filmmaker of Mexico dead at age 89

MEXICO CITY (AP)– Gabriel Figueroa, a leading cinematographer who worked with the great performers and directors of Mexico’s Golden Age of Film as well as with famous U.S. artists, died on Sunday. He was 89.
Figueroa died after suffering a stroke, family and friends said. He marked his 89th birthday on Thursday.
The Mexico City native made more than 200 films and won numerous international awards. His career began in the 1930s, when he studied cinematography in the United States with Gregg Toland, who filmed “Citizen Kane” and “Wuthering Heights.”
Among Figueroa’s top achievements were awards at the Cannes Film Festival for his work on “Maria Candelaria” in 1946, starring Dolores del Rio, and “Macario” in 1960. His work on John Huston’s “Night of the Iguana” in 1964 earned him an Academy Award nomination.
The American Society of Cinematographers honored him in 1995 with its International Achievement Award. He was praised in December at the International Festival of Latin American Film in Cuba.
A Mexico City movie theater is named after him.
Early in his career, Figueroa’s camera artistry so dazzled the film world that the term “Figueroa skies” became a common one in the industry. It describes images of striking sky and cloud formations on black-and-white film.
“When I won the prize in 1948 at the Venice Film Festival for `The Pearl,’ they asked me my secret. I always told them that I used infrared filters,” Figueroa told The Associated Press in a 1987 interview.
Even then, at the age of 80, Figueroa was still active, working on “Eternal Splendor” with Maria Felix, one of Latin America’s best-loved actresses.
Other stars to pass in front of the lens of his camera were Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Richard Burton, Shirley MacLaine, Clint Eastwood, Lana Turner and Henry Fonda.
In addition to Huston, Figueroa worked with legendary directors such as John Ford — in “The Fugitive” of 1947 — and Spanish-born Luis Bunuel.
He was a friend of the Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco and the painter Guadalupe Posada. From those artists he learned ways to present the reality of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-21, a favorite subject of Mexican filmmakers.
“To obtain firm and strong images it’s necessary to use the technique of the engravings of those men,” Figueroa said.
President Ernesto Zedillo was among those who publicly mourned Figueroa’s passing, saying his country “has lost a filmmaker who had given greatly to Mexican cinema.”
Following cremation, Figueroa’s remains were to be taken today to the Fine Arts Palace in downtown Mexico City for a memorial service — an honor accorded those of supreme artistic accomplishment.
Figueroa is survived by his wife, Antonieta, and two children, Tolita and Gabriel.