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Babel (film)

File:Babel poster32.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Jon Kilik
Steve Golin
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
Story by Guillermo Arriaga
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Brad Pitt
Cate Blanchett
Gael García Bernal
Kōji Yakusho
Adriana Barraza
Rinko Kikuchi
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Edited by Stephen Mirrione
Douglas Crise
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 23 May 2006 (2006-05-23) (Cannes)
  • 27 October 2006 (2006-10-27) (US & Mexico)
Running time
143 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Japanese Sign Language
Budget $25 million[2]
Box office $135.3 million[3]

Babel is a 2006 American-Mexican-French drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga, starring an ensemble cast. The multi-narrative drama completes González Iñárritu's Death Trilogy, following Amores perros and 21 Grams.[4]

The film portrays multiple stories taking place in Morocco, Japan, and Mexico/U.S.A. It was an international co-production among companies based in France, Mexico, and the U.S. The film was first screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and was later shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.[5] It opened in selected cities in the United States on 27 October 2006, and went into wide release on 10 November 2006. On 15 January 2007, it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture — Drama. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and two nominations for Best Supporting Actress and won for Best Original Score.


Babel 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.

Interestingly, the three settings for the plot are located on approximately the same latitude with each approximately 120° apart in longitude.


In a remote desert location in Morocco, Abdullah, a goatherder, buys a high-powered .270 Winchester M70 rifle and a box of ammunition from his neighbor Hassan Ibrahim to shoot the jackals that have been preying on his goats. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young and competitive sons, Yussef and Ahmed, and sends them out to tend the herd. Ahmed, the older of the two, is critical of Yussef for spying on his sister while she changes her clothes. Doubtful of the rifle's purported three-kilometer range, they decide to test it out, aiming first at rocks, a moving car on a highway below, and then at a bus carrying Western tourists. Yussef's bullet hits the bus, critically wounding Susan Jones, an American woman from San Diego [6][7] who is traveling with her husband Richard 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, believing 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 Ahmed 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, possibly fatally injuring 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.

This first plotline is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan, who came on vacation to Morocco to get away from things and mend their own marital woes. The death of Sam, their infant third child, to SIDS has strained their marriage significantly and 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, Tazarine. There a local veterinarian sews up Susan's wound to stem the loss of blood. Richard contacts the US embassy to request an ambulance. 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. Richard tells the tour group to wait for the ambulance, which never arrives, and eventually the bus leaves without them. The couple remains behind with the bus's tour guide, Anwar, still waiting for transport to a hospital. Political issues between the US and Morocco prevent quick help, but eventually a helicopter arrives and carries Richard and Susan to a hospital in Casablanca, where she eventually recovers. Richard calls his children's nanny, Amelia, in the hospital, and they agree not to tell the children that Susan has been shot yet. Richard cries as his son tells him about his day at school.


Chieko Wataya (綿谷 千恵子 Wataya Chieko, Rinko Kikuchi) is a rebellious, deaf Japanese teenage girl, traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother. She is bitter towards her father, Yasujiro Wataya (綿谷 ヤスジロウ Wataya Yasujirō, Kōji Yakusho) and boys her age, and is sexually frustrated. She starts exhibiting sexually provocative behavior, partly in response to dismissive comments from a member of her volleyball team. While out with friends, Chieko finds a teenage boy attractive, and following an unsuccessful attempt at socialising, contemptuously exposes herself to him under a table. Chieko encounters two police detectives who question her about her father. She and her friends take ecstacy pills in public and attend a rave. Chieko sees one of her friends kissing another boy she finds attractive and leaves the party alone.

She invites one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya (真宮 賢治 Mamiya Kenji, Satoshi Nikaido), back to the high-rise 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. Soon after learning this, Chieko approaches Mamiya 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 apartment, Mamiya crosses paths with Yasujiro and questions him about the rifle. Yasujiro explains that there was no black market involvement; he gave his rifle as a gift to Hassan Ibrahim, his hunting guide on a trip in Morocco. About to depart, Mamiya offers condolences for the wife's suicide. Yasujiro, however, 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." After leaving, Mamiya stops at a bar to read Chieko's note. The note's contents are not revealed. Chieko is leaning on the balcony when her father enters the apartment, and the two embrace as she breaks down in tears.

United States/Mexico

Richard and Susan's Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), tends to Debbie (Elle Fanning) and Mike (Nathan Gamble), their twin children, in their San Diego, California home while they are in Morocco. When Richard and Susan are detained because of Susan's injury, Amelia is forced to take care of the children longer than planned and becomes worried that she will miss her son's wedding. Unable to secure any other help to care for them, she calls Richard for advice, who impatiently tells her that she has to stay with the children. Without his permission, Amelia decides to take the children with her to the wedding in a rural community near Tijuana, 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, and the twins enjoy themselves in the festivities. 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 and the American children in the car. 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.

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 he places 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 Richard, while outraged, has agreed not to press charges. However, she is told she will 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 (whom she refers to as "her children") for the duration of their lives do not secure lenient treatment. Amelia meets her son on the Mexican side of the Tijuana crossing, still in the red dress she wore for the wedding, now torn and dirty from her night in the desert.


United States/Mexico
  • Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko Wataya
  • Kōji Yakusho as Yasujiro Wataya
  • Satoshi Nikaido as Detective Kenji Mamiya
  • Yuko Murata as Mitsu
  • Shigemitsu Ogi as Dentist Chieko attempts to seduce.


Babel‍ '​s ultimate $25 million 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.

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.[8]

Filming locations

Authorship controversy

Following completion of principal photography on Babel, director Alejandro González Iñárritu 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 González Iñárritu are thus the authors of the films they have worked on together. González Iñárritu claimed sole credit as the auteur of those same films, minimizing Arriaga's contribution to the pictures. As a result of this controversy, González Iñárritu banned Arriaga from attending the 2006 Cannes Film Festival screening of Babel, an act for which the director was very severely criticized.[10]


Main article: Babel (soundtrack)

The film's original score and songs were composed and produced by Gustavo Santaolalla.

The soundtrack album won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (lost to the score of The Painted Veil).

The closing scene of the film features "Bibo no Aozora" by award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.


Box office performance

Released in seven theaters on 27 October 2006, and then released nationwide in 1,251 theaters on 10 November 2006, Babel has earned as of 6 March 2007, $34,302,937 in North America, and $101,027,166 in the rest of the world as of 4 March 2007, for a worldwide box office total of $135,330,003.[11]

Compared to his other films, Babel has surpassed González Iñárritu's 21 Grams for North American box office, as well as that film's $60 million worldwide box office gross .[12]

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 6 March 2007, with nearly $114 million box office gross worldwide, Babel[12] had already outgrossed Crash,[13] Syriana,[14] The Constant Gardener[15] and Magnolia.[16] It has already earned more than four and a half times its estimated production budget of $25 million. But, according to Variety, the film did not make money for Paramount Vantage.[17]

Critical response

Babel has received positive reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 69% based on 195 reviews, with an average score of 6.7/10, making the film a "Certified Fresh" on the website's rating system. The critical consensus states that "In Babel, there are no villains, only victims of fate and circumstance. Director Alejandro González Iñarritu weaves four of their woeful stories into this mature and multidimensional film." [18] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating, the film received an average score of 69/100, based on 38 reviews, which indicates "Generally favorable reviews".[19]

Despite initial mixed reviews, Babel was considered as one of the best films of 2006, being nominated for numerous awards including seven Academy Award nominations and several Golden Globe nominations for which it won the Best Picture Motion-Drama. The cast was praised for their performances, particularly Pitt, Barraza and Kikuchi.[citation needed]

Home media

On 20 February and 21 May 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 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 (19–25 February 2007), Babel debuted #1 in DVD/Home Video Rentals.[20] Total gross rentals for the week, were estimated at $8.73 million.[21] 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 $28,642,774 in revenue.[22]


Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Editing Douglas Crise
Stephen Mirrione
Best Picture Nominated
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Won
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Austin Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Won
BAFTA Film Awards Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto Nominated
Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Editing Douglas Crise
Stephen Mirrione
Best Film Nominated
Best Film Music Gustavo Santaolalla Won
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Best Sound Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Best Cast Nominated
Best Composer Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated
Best Film Nominated
Best Soundtrack Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Best Writer Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Won
François Chalais Award (a Prize of the Ecumenical Jury) Won
Technical Grand Prize Stephen Mirrione
(for the editing)
Palme d'Or (Best Film) Nominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto Nominated
Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Film Nominated
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated
Best Promising Performer Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Won
Directors Guild of America (DGA) Outstanding Directorial Achievement Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Film - Drama Won
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated
Best Screenplay Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Image Awards Outstanding Directing in a Film/TV Movie Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards Best Sound Editing for Music - Feature Film Nominated
Best Sound Editing for Sound Effects and Foley - Foreign Film Nominated
National Board of Review Best Breakthrough Actress Rinko Kikuchi Won
Online Film Critics Best Breakthrough Performance Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Best Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto Nominated
Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Editing Douglas Crise
Stephen Mirrione
Best Film Nominated
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Producers Guild of America (PGA) Motion Picture Producer of the Year Alejandro González Iñárritu
Steve Golin
Jon Kilik
San Diego Film Critics Best Cast Nominated
Best Score Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Film Alejandro González Iñárritu Won
Satellite Awards Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Nominated
Best Editing Stephen Mirrione
Douglas Crise
Best Film - Drama Nominated
Best Original Score Gustavo Santaolalla Won
Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Best Sound (Editing and Mixing) Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Best Cast Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Adriana Barraza Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rinko Kikuchi Nominated
Writers Guild of America (WGA) Best Screenplay - Original Guillermo Arriaga Nominated
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Actor Age Ten or Younger Nathan Gamble Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Actress Age Ten or Younger Elle Fanning Nominated

See also

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  • Hyperlink cinema – the film style of using multiple inter-connected story lines.


  1. ^ "BABEL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 26, 2006. Retrieved November 16, 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Liner notes for the US release of the original soundtrack album (Concord Records catalog number CCD2-30191-2)
  5. ^ Evans, Ian (2006), "Babel premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival",, retrieved 13 December 2009 
  6. ^ Rolling Stone review
  7. ^ The location of the home is identified as "Los Angeles" in the Japanese website (
  8. ^ 10 things you didn't know about 19 January releases,
  9. ^ a b Babel full production notes
  10. ^ Dueling auteurs: Whose movie is it?
  11. ^ Babel, Box Office Mojo.
  12. ^ a b 21 grams, Box Office Mojo.
  13. ^ Crash, Box Office Mojo.
  14. ^ Syriana Box Office Mojo.
  15. ^ The Constant Gardener, Box Office Mojo.
  16. ^ Magnolia, Box Office Mojo.
  17. ^ Thompson, Anne (5 June 2008). "Specialty labels a balancing act". Variety. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  18. ^ "Babel". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  19. ^ "Babel Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  20. ^ 2007-02-25, Box Office Mojo.
  21. ^ Babel homevideo, Box Office Mojo.
  22. ^

External links

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