Emmanuel Lubezki: Why He’s One of the Best Cinematographers of All Time

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Why Emmanuel Lubezki ASC is One of the Best Cinematographers of All Time

Emmanuel Lubezki ASC was awarded his third Oscar in a row on February 28, 2016 for Best Cinematography for his work on the film The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio.

What makes this achievement even more impressive is that Emmanuel Lubezki (he sometimes goes by the nickname Chivo, which means “goat” in Spanish) , won the Academy Award in 2015 in the same category for the film Birdman, and in the previous year, he took home an Oscar for Gravity. Emmanuel Lubezki has been nominated eight times, and he is the first cinematographer ever to win three consecutive Oscars.

He is now firmly established as one of the most acclaimed cinematographers of our time.


Image from The Revenant (2015)

Lubezki has worked his magic on films with many celebrated directors, including Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Ethan and Joel Coen, Michael Mann and has frequently collaborated with Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Terrance Malick.

Image from Tree of Life (2011)

Image from Tree of Life (2011)

Emmanuel Lubezki started his career in the late 1980s working on Mexican television productions and films. The 1993 film Twenty Bucks, was his first international production, a small independent film with a storyline about the journey of a particular twenty-dollar bill.

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Lubezki frequently collaborates with Alfonso Cuarón, a fellow Mexican. The two first became friends as teenagers and went to the same film school, part of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. They have worked on a total of six motion pictures together, which include A Little Princes, Y Tu Mamá También, Great Expectations, Sólo Con Tu Pareja, Gravity, and Children of Men.

Crazy Shots

His work on the 2006 film Children of Men with Cuarón received overwhelming acclaim. A number of new techniques and innovative technologies were utilized in filming the movie. Doggicam Systems invented a very unique camera rig for shooting the “roadside ambush” scene all in one very extended take.

Image from Sleep Hollow (1999)

Image from Sleep Hollow (1999)

The special camera rig was developed from Doggicam’s Power Slide system, using a modified vehicle that allowed the car seats to tilt to lower the actors out of camera range. The car’s windshield was designed so it could move out of the way, allowing the camera to move in and out of the front windscreen. A crew of four that included Lubezki was riding on the roof. The film also features an amazing 7½-minute battle sequence created from five seamless edits.

Image from Gravity (2013)

Image from Gravity (2013)

The Revenant

Aside from all the environmental challenges, Emmanuel Lubezki spoke about the process he went through to capture the different moods of tranquility and intensity in The Revenant, including a scene that got cut involving a monster, describing this as “the most difficult film” he’s ever worked on.

Emmanuel Lubezki has made his reputation on creating highly immersive experiences that evolve organically to draw audiences into the story. He achieves this effect by utilizing wide-angle lenses, filming lengthy continuous shots. His incredible work leads audiences through various sensory experiences, which tend to evoke strong emotional reactions, a sense of freedom and exploration, beauty, magic, authenticity and sometimes he even makes audience members feel uncomfortable.

In his 30-year cinematography career, Chivo has certainly captured some amazing feats on film. However, he is still just 50 years old, which means we are sure to witness a whole lot more in all the years to come.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s Remarkable Filmography:

 2015 – The Revenant
 2015 – Knight of Cups
 2013 – Gravity
 2012 – To the Wonder
 2011 – The Tree of Life
 2008 – Burn After Reading
 2006 – Children of Men
 2005 – The New World
 2003 – The Cat in the Hat
 2001 – Ali
 2001 – Y Tu Mamá También
 1999 – Sleepy Hollow
 1998 – Meet Joe Black
 1998 – Great Expectations
 1996 – The Birdcage
 1995 – A Little Princess
 1994 – Ámbar
 1994 – Reality Bites
 1993 – Miroslava
 1993 – Twenty Bucks
 1992 – The Harvest
 1991 – Sólo con tu pareja
 1991 – Bandits

Children of Men – The Cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki

A closer look at Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work in Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men. Excellent flick.

Birdman Interview – Alejandro G. Iñárritu & Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki

Director Alejandro and cinematographer Chivo discuss “Birdman,” the motivation behind the film, and their past projects. Interview conducted by Elvis Mitchell from KCRW at Landmark Theaters in Los Angeles.

If you liked Emmanuel Lubezki: Why He’s One of the Best Cinematographers of All Time take a listen to:
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