Smith” “Behind the money”

“Behind the Money:  Alejandro G. Iñárritu a a Career Director”

Paul Julian Smith, City University of New York


This article is presented in two halves. The first analyses little known interviews
with Iñárritu before he made his career in feature films that document his practice in radio, advertising and television drama. These interviews focus on his
early conception of the relation between art and commerce and his views on the
Mexican media scene in the 1990s. The second half of the article analyses the rare primary materials themselves: radio commercials, television idents and, at much greater length, his first feature-length fiction film, an experimental drama made for Televisa in 1995 called Detrás del dinero/Behind the Money. The conclusion argues that even as Iñárritu has more recently distanced himself from broadcasting, his later career as an artistic and commercially successful feature film director embodies a precarious balance between artistic innovation and mass culture and a focus on the audience which he first learned in his early work in advertising, radio and television.


“Let us look briefly now at four of Iñárritu’s early audiovisual texts, links to which were helpfully collated by Chilango magazine on 11 January 2016 and at the time of writing remain accessible on YouTube (Chilango 2016). The first is a 1989 radio promo for WFM, dramatically spoken by Iñárritu himself. Here, already, he voices an ironic account of the ‘failure’ of his career that expresses, once more already, his concern for self-fashioning and complicity with his audience. The second are a selection of the TV spots or idents he made in 1991 for Channel 5. While the frequent appearance of dogs in these promos serve as a comic foreshadowing of the tragic canines of Amores perros, what is also striking is the recurring motif of the ‘hilo’ or ‘thread’, often shown as a physical cord, and suggesting a certain continuity or totality; and, contradictorily, the use of a fragmented or analytical montage, more typical of the short form advertising medium. My third example is the credits sequence for Iñárritu’s first program, Magia digital (‘Digital magic’), which stretches this chaotic editing to the limit, offering a quick cut montage of innumerable and inexplicable fragments. All of these short clips go far beyond the normal conventions of their respective minor genres, suggesting an artistic intelligence and creative imagination that seek to engage, surprise, and even dazzle the unsuspecting mass audience.”

Iñárritu Radio Promo

Iñárritu:  Credits of Magia Digital


Iñárritu’s Experimental drama for Televisa, Detras del Dinero (1995):


Other commercials by Iñárritu:

“Airball” for Orange @ the World Cup (2009):

Iñárritu’s commercial for Facebook (year unknown):

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