The actor Gael Garcia Bernal has a small frame and a commanding presence on screen.
The 27-year-old Mexican actor, whose work is often cited for its intensity and vulnerability, currently has two movies in theaters. In Babel, he is drunk and armed when he comes up against a hostile border agent at a U.S.-Mexico crossing.
In The Science of Sleep, Bernal takes a comic turn as Stephane, a man who's held captive by his dreams and is obsessed with his neighbor in Paris.
Bernal has drawn acclaim for his earlier roles, among them, as a randy teenager on a road trip in Y Tu Mama Tambien and as a young Ernesto Guevara — before he became Che — in The Motorcycle Diaries.
For Bernal, acting is an inner journey.
"It's a safe way, and an exciting way, to test yourself and to be able to travel these distances, and be blunt and brave and throw yourself into it. And maybe it won't look good, but at least that golden dust that comes out of an act of faith is always there, it always transcends, it is always worthwhile," he says.
At 43, Mexican-born director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has already made a name for himself in the United States, with films like Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003). His new film, Babel, is already gathering Oscar buzz.
Babel stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and several unknown actors. The movie interweaves stories unfolding in Morocco, Japan and on the U.S.-Mexico border. The film's ambitious scope includes four countries, three continents and five languages.
The filming, which lasted nearly a year, proved to be challenging.
Nearly his entire cast in Morocco consisted of nonactors, and Inarritu had to work through two translators in Japan: one to translate from English to Japanese, another to translate from Japanese into sign language (one of the characters is a deaf Japanese teenager).
"As a production, we were running very close circumstances to what the film was about, the lack of communication, the impossibilities of dialogue," Inarritu says.