As a director of photography for more than 30 years, Rodrigo Prieto (Barbie) has worked with some of the greatest filmmakers in the industry.
The three-time Academy Award-nominated Mexican cinematographer broke into the public consciousness in 2000 when he teamed with director and fellow countryman Alejandro González Iñárritu for the Academy Award-nominated crime drama Amores perros.
He collaborated with Iñárritu three more times on the films 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful. The only other director Prieto has worked with as many times as Iñárritu is Oscar winner Martin Scorsese (The Departed). And in 2022, he worked with director Greta Gerwig on the box-office smash hit Barbie. When released in 2023, Barbie ended up making 1.4 billion, making it one of highest grossest films ever.
Prieto started his professional relationship with Scorsese in 2013 for The Wolf of Wall Street. He earned two of his Oscar nominations on Scorsese films – 2016’s Silence and 2019’s The Irishman. For his fourth outing with the iconic director, Prieto serves as his cinematographer on the 2023 crime drama, Killers of the Flower Moon.
Based on true events, the film explores the murders of members of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone.
Since Scorsese is no stranger to crime narratives, Prieto said the director took a similar approach to Killers of the Flower Moon when it came to the “process of discovery.” It’s something Prieto had experienced with him before.
“[Scorsese] films in a very respectful way,” Prieto, 57, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “He really goes deep into the research and tries to be as authentic as possible to the [era] and to the characters. In this case, that meant understanding a culture that has really not been explored.”
The film, however, also felt different than any other Scorsese project since at the heart of the story was an Indigenous woman, Mollie Kyle (Gladstone), whose family becomes the target of white men when oil is found on their tribal lands. During meetings with the tribe, Prieto said they talked about how important it was to them that the presence of their mothers and grandmothers was significant in the film.
“Lily got so deep into Osage culture and language that she became this figure,” Prieto said. “We framed her in a way that you don’t see the other characters. She has this gravity to her. With many of her moments, the camera became her point of view, which was kind of surreal. Scorsese is a master at putting us inside the minds and the eyes of the characters.”
With four films now completed alongside Scorsese, Prieto feels like he has a great shorthand way of communicating with the director. He feels the same about Iñárritu and the other Latine filmmakers he’s worked with during his career.
“Every director is certainly very different,” Prieto said. “Working with Alejandro and other friends of mine who speak Spanish, there’s a level of comfort. What I do is listen to directors and try to become their eyes, whether it’s diving into Barbieland or diving into Oklahoma and the Osage world.”
Killers of the Flower Moon is currently playing at theaters nationwide. The film will also be released on AppleTV+, although a date has not been announced yet.