For 50 years José Luis Borau was considered the godfather of Spanish cinema. A former president and founder of the Spanish Cinema Academy, Borau achieved international success with Poachers (1975), which won the Golden Shell in San Sebastián and became one of the most famous films in Spanish history.
The powerful, rural-set drama about a possessive mother and her mentally challenged child is widely considered a masterpiece and a pioneering work of post-Franco Spanish cinema.
From his debut in 1965 with Brandy, an early spaghetti western, Borau was known for making genre films full of passion and twisted plots. He was also the writer of My Dearest Senorita (1972), a film by Jaime de Armiñán that was nominated for an Oscar and portrayed the ignorance in some provincial areas of Spain through the tragic story of a man who was raised as a woman and doesn’t know his true identity.
Borau only directed nine films in his life. Some of them were released internationally such as B Must Die (1975), a drama set in a South American dictatorship; On The Line (1984), a drama centred on the Mexico US boarder that starred Victoria Abril and David Carradine; or Borau’s last film, Leo, a love story between two marginalised people that earned him the Goya award for best directing.
As a producer, Borau made the first Iván Zulueta film The Tio Prudencio – an underground classic – and he also wrote scripts such as Black Litter (1977), which earned Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón the Berlin Silver Bear for best directing.
Borau was renowned in Spain for his institutional role. He was the only member of Spanish cinema in the Real Academia De La Lengua (Spanish Language Academy) and was the former president of SGAE, the powerful artists’ association. He also received the National prize for Cinema and was a member of the Royal Academy Of Arts Of San Fernando. As a writer he was also an award-winning novelist and the author of an influential Spanish Cinema dictionary.
The Impossible director Juan Antonio Bayona, who was Borau’s pupil, recalled the late filmmaker as a “great director and a great person.” José Luis Cuerda cited him as an example of the “best Spanish cinema that we have had”, while Agustín Almodóvar lamented his passing as “a very sad loss.”
The Spanish Royal Academy has just announced the creation of a new annual prize in honour of Borau to recognise the best Spanish-language screenplay.