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Babel is a 2006 film directed by Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga, starring an ensemble cast. The multi-narrative drama completes Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu's Death Trilogy, which also consists of Amores perros and 21 Grams.

Babel portrays multiple stories taking place in Moroccomarker, Japanmarker, Mexicomarker and the United Statesmarker. It was an international co-production among production companies based in France, Mexico and the US. The film was first screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and was later shown to audiences at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker and the Zagrebmarker Film Festival. It opened in selected cities in the United States on October 27, 2006, and went into wide release on November 10, 2006. On January 15, 2007, it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture ‚ÄĒ Drama. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and two nominations for Best Supporting Actress and won one for Best Original Score.


The movie focuses on four interrelated sets of situations and characters, and many events are revealed out of sequence. The following plot summary has been simplified, and thus does not reflect the exact sequence of the events on screen.


In a remote desert location in southern Moroccomarker, Abdullah, a goatherd, buys a high-powered .270 Winchester M70 rifle and a box of ammunition from his countryman Hassan Ibrahim to shoot the jackals that have been preying on his goats. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young sons, Yussef and Ahmed (played by local non-professional actors Boubker Ait El Caid and Said Tarchini), and sends them out to tend the herd. Competing gently between themselves and doubtful of the rifle's purported three-kilometer range, they decide to test it out, aiming first for rocks and then for a bus carrying Western tourists on the highway below. Yussef's bullet hits the bus, critically wounding Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), an American woman from San Diegomarker who is traveling with her husband Richard Jones (Brad Pitt) on vacation. The two boys realize what has happened and flee the scene, hiding the rifle in the hills that night.

Glimpses of television news programs reveal that the US government holds the shooting to be a terrorist act and is pressuring the Moroccan government to apprehend the culprits. Having traced the rifle back to Hassan, the Moroccan police descend quickly on his house and roughly question him and his wife until they reveal that the rifle was given to him by a Japanese man, and then sold to Abdullah. The two boys see the police on the road and confess to their father what they have done. (They believe at the time that the American woman has died of her wounds.) The three flee from their house, retrieving the rifle as they go. The police corner them on the rocky slope of a hill and open fire. After his brother is hit in the leg, Yussef returns fire, striking one police officer in the shoulder. The police continue shooting, eventually hitting Ahmed in the back, seemingly killing him. As his father rages with grief, Yussef eventually surrenders and confesses to all the crimes, begging clemency for his family and medical assistance for his brother. The police take him into custody. The family's fate is unresolved.

The movie's first plot is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan. They came on vacation in Morocco to get away from things and mend their own marital woes. The death of their infant third child to SIDS has strained their marriage significantly as they struggle to communicate their frustration, guilt, and blame. When Susan is shot on the tour bus, Richard orders the bus driver to the nearest village with a doctor (the village is named Tazarine in the film). There a local medical man sews up the wound to stem the loss of blood. The other tourists wait for some time, but they eventually demand to leave, fearing the heat and worried that they may be the target of further attacks. Since Susan cannot travel by bus in her condition, Richard threatens the tour group to wait for the ambulance, which never arrives, and eventually the bus leaves without them while Richard is on the phone. The couple remains behind with the bus's tour guide, Anwar, still waiting for transport to a hospital (having contacted the US embassy using the village's only phone). Political issues between the US and Morocco prevent quick help, but a helicopter comes at last. After five days in the hospital, Susan recovers and is sent home.


Simultaneously, the movie tells the story of Chieko Wataya (Rinko Kikuchi), a rebellious, deaf-mute Japanese teenage girl, traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother. She is bitter towards her father, Yasujiro Wataya (KŇćji Yakusho), and boys her age, and is sexually frustrated. She starts exhibiting sexually provocative behavior and attempts unsuccessfully to initiate a sexual encounter with her dentist. Chieko also finds one of the teenage boys attractive and takes off her panties and exposes herself. Chieko eventually encounters two police detectives who question her about her father. She finds one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya (Satoshi Nikaido), attractive. She invites Mamiya back to the apartment she shares with her father. Wrongly supposing that the detectives are investigating her father's involvement in her mother's suicide, she explains to Mamiya that her father was asleep when her mother jumped off the balcony and that she witnessed this herself. It turns out the detectives are, in fact, investigating a hunting trip Yasujiro took in Morocco. Yasujiro is an avid hunter and during a trip in Morocco he gave his rifle, as a gift, to his very skilled hunting guide, Hassan, who at the beginning of the film sold the rifle to Abdullah.

Soon after learning this, Chieko reveals her real motive in inviting Mamiya to her home. She approaches him nude and attempts to seduce him. He resists her approaches but comforts her as she bursts into tears. Before he leaves, Chieko writes him a note, indicating that she does not want him to read it until he is gone. Leaving, the detective crosses paths with Yasujiro and explains the situation with the rifle. Yasujiro replies that he did indeed give it as a gift, there was no black market involvement. About to depart, Mamiya offers condolences for the wife's suicide. Yasujiro, though, is confused by the mention of a balcony and angrily replies that "My wife shot herself in the head. Chieko was the first to find the body. I've explained this to the police many times." The issue of the conflicting stories is never resolved. Chieko is leaning on the balcony (still nude) when her father enters the apartment. After leaving, the detective stops at a bar to read Chieko's note. Within the film, the note's contents are never revealed.

United States/Mexico

Richard and Susan Jones, just after she has been shot on the bus.

A fourth subplot takes place in the Americas where Richard and Susan's Mexicanmarker nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza) tends their twin children in their California home. Due to Richard and Susan being in Morocco, Amelia is forced to take care of the children. Unable to secure any other help to care for them, she decides to take them to her son's wedding in a rural community near Tijuanamarker, Mexico, rather than miss it. Her nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal) offers to take her and the twins to the wedding. They cross the border uneventfully and the children are soon confronted by the Mexican culture and street scene. The revelry of the wedding extends well into the evening, but rather than staying the night in Mexico with the children, Amelia decides to drive back to the States with Santiago. He has been drinking heavily and the border guards become suspicious of his behavior. Amelia has passports for all four travelers, but no letter of consent from the children's parents allowing her to take them out of the United States. Intoxicated, Santiago trespasses the border. He soon abandons Amelia and the children in the desert, attempting to lead off the police (we never learn of his final fate). Stranded without food and water, Amelia and the children are forced to spend the night in the desert. Realizing that they will all die if she cannot get help, Amelia leaves the children behind to find someone, ordering them not to move. She eventually finds a U.S. Border Patrol officer. After placing Amelia under arrest, she and the officer travel back to where she had left the children, but they are not there. Amelia is taken back to a Border Patrol station, where she is eventually informed that the children have been found and that their father, Richard, while very angry, has agreed not to press charges. However, she must be deported from the US where she has been working illegally. Her protests that she had been in the US for 16 years and has looked after the children for the duration of their lives do not secure lenient treatment. Near the end of the movie, the audience sees her meeting her son on the Mexican side of the Tijuanamarker crossing, still in the red dress she wore for the wedding.

At the end of the movie, a phone conversation between Amelia and Richard is repeated from Richard's end of the phone. This is the original phone call at the beginning of Amelia's story. In this conversation it can be heard that he is allowing Amelia to go to her son's wedding because Susan's sister will be able to watch the twins. It is not until the next morning on another phone call they learn that Susan's sister cannot take care of them and thus Amelia is forced to take the children with her.

Principal cast and characters


Mexico/United States

  • Rinko Kikuchi - Chieko Wataya
  • KŇćji Yakusho - Yasujiro Wataya
  • Satoshi Nikaido - Detective Kenji Mamiya
  • Yuko Murata - Mitsu
  • Shigemitsu Ogi - Dentist Chieko attempts to seduce


Babel's ultimate $25,000,000 budget came from an array of different sources and investors anchored with Paramount Vantage, which changed its name from Paramount Classics, with Babel as its premiere production and inaugural motion picture.

Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu claims financing was in place long before Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett signed on to star in the film. A few insiders claim it was because Paramount was looking for a production that would be likely to contend at the Oscars or Golden Globes.

Actress Adriana Barraza, who plays the role of Amelia, is a two-time survivor of minor heart attacks. She nonetheless carried co-actress Elle Fanning around in the hot desert of Southern California during the summer for two days during filming of those particular desert scenes. The whole of the desert scenes were said to have taken five days to shoot.

Filming locations

Authorship controversy

Following completion of principal photography on Babel, director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga had a falling out. The dispute centered on the authorship of their previous film, 21 Grams. Arriaga argued that cinema is a collaborative medium, and that both he and Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu are thus the authors of the films they have worked on together. Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu claimed sole credit as the auteur of those same films, minimizing Arriaga's contribution to the pictures. As a result of this controversy, Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu banned Arriaga from attending the 2006 Cannes Film Festival screening of Babel, an act for which the director was very severely criticized.

Health hazard

It was reported that during the Japanese premiere of the movie, numerous people became sick after watching the scene involving Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi dancing in a club with flashing strobe lights. Since the incident, theaters nationwide posted notices saying that Babel contains scenes with strong effects and that some viewers felt sick after seeing them.

Box office performance

Released in seven theaters on October 27, 2006, and then released nationwide in 1,251 theaters on November 10, 2006, Babel has earned as of March 6, 2007, $34,302,937 in North America, and $101,027,166 in the rest of the world as of March 4, 2007, for a worldwide box office total of $135,330,003.

Compared to his other films, Babel has surpassed Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu's 21 Grams for North American box office, as well as that film's $60 million worldwide box office gross .

Box Office Mojo commented on America's initially poor reception for Babel, when the film first expanded beyond targeted communities ("wide release"). "Babel didn't translate in wide release, grabbing $5.6 million at 1,251 locations." Box Office Mojo observed that America's interest in political morality plays like Babel, Syriana and Crash has declined, despite the biggest box office stars.

As of March 6, 2007, with nearly $114 million box office gross worldwide, Babel has already outgrossed Crash, Syriana, The Constant Gardener and Magnolia. It has already earned more than four and a half times its estimated production budget of $25 million.

But according to Variety, this film didn't make money for Paramount Vantage. [198731]

Home video release

On February 20, and May 21, 2007, Babel was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment in the United States and the United Kingdom. The only special feature was the theatrical trailer and various other movie previews. In July 2007, Paramount announced they were releasing the film as a two-disc special edition DVD in September 2007. The second disc contains a 90 minute 'making of'. Babel has also been released on the high-definition formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

On its first week of release on DVD in North America (February 19‚Äď25, 2007), Babel debuted #1 in DVD/Home Video Rentals. Total gross rentals for the week, were estimated at $8.73 million. In the first week of DVD sales,Babel sold 721,000 units, gathering revenue of $12,253,000. As of the latest figures, 1,795,000 units have been sold, translating to 1,795,000 in revenue.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient Won
Academy Awards Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Best Editing Douglas Crise

Stephen Mirrione
Best Picture
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Yes
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga No
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Austin Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Yes
BAFTA Film Awards Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto No
Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu
Best Editing Douglas Crise

Stephen Mirrione
Best Film
Best Film Music Gustavo Santaolalla Yes
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga No
Best Sound
Broadcast Film Critics Best Cast No
Best Composer Gustavo Santaolalla
Best Film
Best Soundtrack
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Best Writer Guillermo Arriaga
Cannes Film Festival Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu Yes
François Chalais Award (a Prize of the Ecumenical Jury)
Technical Grand Prize Stephen Mirrione

(for the editing)
Palme d'Or (Best Film) No
C√©sar Awards Best Foreign Film Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Chicago Film Critics Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto No
Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu
Best Film
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla
Best Promising Performer Rinko Kikuchi
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Yes
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Best Film - Drama Yes
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla No
Best Screenplay Guillermo Arriaga
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Image Awards Outstanding Directing in a Film/TV Movie Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editing for Music - Feature Film No
Best Sound Editing for Sound Effects and Foley - Foreign Film
National Board of Review Best Breakthrough Actress Rinko Kikuchi Yes
Online Film Critics Best Breakthrough Performance Rinko Kikuchi No
Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu
Best Editing Douglas Crise

Stephen Mirrione
Best Film
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Producers Guild of America Motion Picture Producer of the Year Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu

Steve Golin

Jon Kilik
San Diego Film Critics Best Cast No
Best Score Gustavo Santaolalla
San Francisco Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Yes
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Film Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu Yes
Satellite Awards Best Director Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu No
Best Editing Stephen Mirrione

Douglas Crise
Best Film - Drama
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Yes
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga

Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu
Best Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Screen Actors Guild Best Cast No
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi
Writers Guild of America Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga No
César Awards 2007 Best Foreign Film No

See also


  1. Liner notes for the US release of the original soundtrack album (Concord Records catalog number CCD2-30191-2)
  2. Rolling Stone review
  3. The location of the home is identified as "Los Angeles" in the Japanese website ( Go to gallery and you will see "Los Angeles"
  4. 10 things you didn't know about January 19 releases,
  5. Babel full production notes
  6. Dueling auteurs: Whose movie is it?
  7. 'Babel Sickness and Pokémon Seizures'
  8. Japan Moviegoers Warned of 'Babel' Sickness
  9. Babel, Box Office Mojo.
  10. 21 grams, Box Office Mojo.
  11. Crash, Box Office Mojo.
  12. Syriana Box Office Mojo.
  13. The Constant Gardener, Box Office Mojo.
  14. Magnolia, Box Office Mojo.
  15. 2007-02-25, Box Office Mojo.
  16. Babel homevideo, Box Office Mojo.

External links

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