5 Reasons You Should See ‘Tiempo de Morir,’ a Western Written by Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes

Lead Photo: Alfredo Leal and Enrique Rochain in Arturo Ripstein’s 'Time to Die'. Courtesy of Film Forum.
Alfredo Leal and Enrique Rochain in Arturo Ripstein’s 'Time to Die'. Courtesy of Film Forum.
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It’s remarkable how in 2017 access to classic movies from Mexico and other Latin American countries remains limited. Though services are slowly rolling out to give film fans a greater breadth of cinematic knowledge, Mexican classic films often remain relegated to the repertory theater circuit.

Mexican director Arturo Ripstein’s 1966 Western drama Tiempo de morir (Time to Die) will be receiving its first-ever United States theatrical release at the Film Forum in New York starting this Friday and opens the door towards discovering the hidden treasures of classic Latin American cinema. Set in a dusty Western village the drama follows Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos), a man recently released from prison after serving an 18-year prison sentence for murder. Happy to resume his life, and hopefully reconnect with the woman he’s always loved, Juan cannot get a moment’s peace. Why? The two sons of the man he murdered are bent on revenge, fueled in their own misguided knowledge that Juan murdered their father in cold blood. As all the citizens of the town urge Juan to leave to save his life, he refuses to let fear force him from making a fresh start.

Time to Die is such a fantastic film that we came up with 5 reasons why you should head to theater to catch it.

Time to Die is playing at Film Forum through September 21.


The Script's Co-Writers

Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez (C) arrives for the 28th New Latin American Cinema Festival at the Karl Marx theatre December 5, 2006 in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Time to Die‘s biggest selling point is its script, written by acclaimed Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. Before the author wrote his landmark text One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book that would secure him the Nobel Prize in Literature, Márquez was an aspiring film critic and screenwriter. Director Arturo Ripstein commissioned Márquez for the work and the writer teamed up with Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes to write what would become Time to Die.


Arturo Ripstein Himself

Director Arturo Ripstein attends a Master Class ‘My Life, My Cinema’ during the 17th Busan International Film Festival Busan, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Considered the greatest director in Mexican cinema Arturo Ripstein was just 21 years old when he directed Time to Die. He started out as an uncredited assistant director working with acclaimed director Luis Buñuel on his 1962 masterpiece The Exterminating Angel. Despite the commercial apathy towards Time to Die upon release Ripstein has directed almost 60 films and TV shows, and is still working today.


Its Leading Man

Alfredo Leal and Jorge Martinez de Hoyos in Arturo Ripstein’s ‘Time to Die.; Courtesy Film Forum

Playing the film’s honorable and moral protagonist Juan Sayago is veteran actor Jorge Martinez de Hoyos. His filmography boasts over 100 credits starting from 1948 in practically every genre; he also worked in both America and Mexico. One of his final roles was playing the narrator in Guillermo del Toro’s American debut, 1993’s Cronos.


It's FInally Receiving Its United States Premiere

Marga López in Arturo Ripstein’s ‘Time to Die’. Courtesy of Film Forum

Like many classic films not originally helmed in the United States or Britain, Time to Die was limited to theaters within Mexico. Nearly fifty years would pass before it would see a U.S. release courtesy of Film Forum. This marks the first time it’s ever been run on U.S. shores.


How It Uses (and Subverts) the United States West

Alfredo Leal and Enrique Rochain in Arturo Ripstein’s ‘Time to Die’. Courtesy of Film Forum.

Many US-produced Westerns are about owning the West, “taming” it away from the “savage” hands of Native Americans and Mexicans. Time to Die isn’t a John Wayne-type of Western. The film moves away from conquering the land to focus on what living on the land is like. Juan’s journey sees him confronting things like faith, the nature of tradition, and often how generations of storytelling can present a false narrative. (These tropes aren’t surprising to see as they would be cornerstones in screenwriter Marquez’s work.) The Mexican West isn’t one of killing for dominance, but killing as a means of restoring honor only to ask, in the end, if it was worth it?