Frida (2002)

122-123 mins | Biography, Drama | 25 October 2002

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HISTORY

The film opens with a scene of Frida Kahlo being carried in her bed out of her house and onto the bed of a truck. She is accompanied by her sister Cristina, in a foretelling of the trip shown at the close of the film that the artist makes to her solo exhibition in 1953. Salma Hayek, as “Frida,” provides voice-over narration at various points in the film. During the beginning of the New York sequence in the film, Alfred Molina’s voice narrates the highlights of their stay. Some passages of Frida’s dialogue in the film and quoted in the above summary were taken from Kahlo’s own diaries and interviews. In the opening credits nine principal actors are listed beginning with Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina; however, in the film’s closing credits the cast is listed in order of appearance.
       The picture lists the following companies and individuals as providing the Photography (Montage) stills: Archive Films by Getty Images; Hulton/Archives by Getty Images; Museum of the City of New York; George Eastman House; Engineering Site; Library of Congress, Prints & Photography Division; Serge Patzak and Jeremy Dawson. The credits state that reproduction of artwork by both artists was authorized by the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature and that original rights to each artists’ artwork belong to The Banco De Mexico Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust. In addition, the credits note that the Vogue magazine with Kahlo on the front cover is used by permission of the Condé Nast Publications, Inc. Many individuals and companies are listed in the “A Very Special Thanks” section in the closing credits of the film, including: Miramax executives ... More Less

The film opens with a scene of Frida Kahlo being carried in her bed out of her house and onto the bed of a truck. She is accompanied by her sister Cristina, in a foretelling of the trip shown at the close of the film that the artist makes to her solo exhibition in 1953. Salma Hayek, as “Frida,” provides voice-over narration at various points in the film. During the beginning of the New York sequence in the film, Alfred Molina’s voice narrates the highlights of their stay. Some passages of Frida’s dialogue in the film and quoted in the above summary were taken from Kahlo’s own diaries and interviews. In the opening credits nine principal actors are listed beginning with Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina; however, in the film’s closing credits the cast is listed in order of appearance.
       The picture lists the following companies and individuals as providing the Photography (Montage) stills: Archive Films by Getty Images; Hulton/Archives by Getty Images; Museum of the City of New York; George Eastman House; Engineering Site; Library of Congress, Prints & Photography Division; Serge Patzak and Jeremy Dawson. The credits state that reproduction of artwork by both artists was authorized by the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature and that original rights to each artists’ artwork belong to The Banco De Mexico Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust. In addition, the credits note that the Vogue magazine with Kahlo on the front cover is used by permission of the Condé Nast Publications, Inc. Many individuals and companies are listed in the “A Very Special Thanks” section in the closing credits of the film, including: Miramax executives Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the Instituto Nacional De Bellas Artes and actor-writer Edward Norton, who is credited in several magazine articles as contributing to the screenplay, but only listed onscreen in this section.
       As portrayed in the film, Frida Kahlo (1907--1954) grew up in Mexico City in her family home, Casa Azul. At age eighteen she was involved in a bus accident that left her with chronic health problems and caused her to endure over thirty operations in her lifetime. After her initial recovery, Kahlo began to paint. She met Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886--1957) in 1928, married him the next year, divorced him in 1939 and remarried him in 1940. While Rivera enjoyed an international art career through commissioned murals, Kahlo continued to create intensively autobiographical paintings and became world renowned several decades after her death. As depicted in the film, Diego’s mural for the Rockefeller Center lobby was destroyed in 1934 when Rivera refused to remove its portrait of Lenin.
       The couple’s studios were made into the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Studio-House Museum, where many of their works are on display. During their marriage the couple socialized with many world-renowned personalities, including Communist Leon Trotsky, who immigrated to Mexico in 1937 and, as depicted in the film, was assassinated in 1940; surrealist André Breton; photographer Tina Modotti; singer Josephine Baker, although the character is called "Paris chanteuse" in credits, and others. One year before Kahlo’s death, Rivera lauded his wife’s work in an interview, stating, "Kahlo is the greatest Mexican painter. Her work is destined to be multiplied by reproductions and will speak . . . to the whole world.”
       Frida is based on the 1983 novel Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. According to an Aug 2002 HR article, in 1988 film producer Nancy Hardin purchased the rights to the book. When HBO agreed to make the film for cable television in 1994, Mexican director Roberto Sneider, producer Sarah Green and, according to a 23 Aug 2002 Screen International article, producer Lizz Speed, joined the team. The Aug 2002 HR article states that Rodrigo Garcia, son of Nobel prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez, worked on the script.
       By the early 1990s, several other companies were interested in producing television and feature-film versions of Kahlo’s story. Musician and actress Madonna approached HBO about joining her project with Hardin’s and, according to a 17 Jun 2001 The Times (London) article, had lined up Marlon Brando to star as Rivera. The Aug 2002 HR article states that producer Jan Rosenthal and actor Robert De Niro considered making a version. According to a 30 Aug 2000 LAT article, Venezuelan director Betty Kaplan also had plans to make a film based on Kahlo, starring Edward James Olmos.
       Another version was slated to begin under the direction of Latin American Luis Valdez entitled Frida and Diego . The production was to be based on Martha Zamora’s Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish and to star Raul Julia and Jennifer Lopez; however, when the film was to begin production in 2001, Julia had died and Lopez left due to other film commitments. According to a 23 Aug 2002 Screen International article, Francis Ford Coppola had agreed to produce the Valdez production.
       According to a 15 Jul 2001 LAT article, in the meantime, the HBO project was purchased by Trimark Pictures in 1996 with Hayek assigned to star. As noted in the Aug 2002 HR article, Hayek had auditioned for the lead in Valdez’s version, but was rejected at the time because the former Mexican soap opera star was not the internationally popular draw required by the director. A 23 Aug 2002 Screen International article states that after Sneider left the Trimark project, Hayek became a producer, as well as the star, for the film under her production company, Ventanarosa.
       Although a 3 Mar 1998 HR production chart states shooting would start in the spring of that year, according to Screen International , Hayek left the project to work with Miramax, and promised Hardin to try to convince Miramax to take on the production. The article also notes that Hayek worked with producer Walter Salles, who left the project due to scheduling conflicts. A 13 Oct 2002 LAT article notes that Spanish director Pedro Almodovar also considered the project in 1997--1998. According to an Aug 2002 HR article, after Trimark subsequently dropped the project in 1998 because of Hayek’s budget, the star, as promised, then took the project to Miramax on the condition that Julie Taymor direct it.
       Taymor, known for her experimental work in both theater and film, chose several techniques to highlight Kahlo’s creative process. Among these techniques were the blending of live-action sequences into versions of Kahlo’s paintings and vice versa. As noted in an Oct 2002 AmCin article, Taymor filmed Hayek in makeup that closely matched the paintings “The Two Fridas, Self Portrait with Cropped Hair” and “The Broken Column” in order to make the illusion seamless. The paintings “My Dress Hangs There,” “The Suicide of Dorothy Hale” and “What the Water Gave Me” were animated to blend the paintings into live-action sequences.
       As also noted in the article, Kahlo and Rivera’s journey through New York is depicted through the use of montage, referencing early 20th century Dadaist collage. Black-and-white film documenting Rivera’s visit to a Detroit factory was used, as well as cityscape cutouts which form the background on which paper dolls of Kahlo and Rivera walk. An actual clip of the film King Kong is used during a sequence in which Frida visits a movie theater. Later, a King Kong sequence is recreated in which Diego is portrayed as Kong climbing up the Empire State Building. In addition, the surreal images of dancing skeletons and broken bones depicted during Frida’s early hospital stay were created by the use of puppet-animation sequencing. Tinting was used to highlight the differences in location including vibrant color for Mexico, sepia tones for Paris and cooler tones for New York.
       In addition to the recreation of the Casa Azul and other sets at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, portions of the film were shot on location in Mexico City and the outlying towns of Puebla and San Luis Potosi. According to the Oct 2002 AmCin article, permission was also granted to shoot at a number of locations central to Kahlo and Rivera’s life, including the Mexican Ministry of Education, the site of one of Rivera’s murals; the San Angel studio where the couple lived and worked and the Teotihuacan pyramids, which according to the Aug 2002 HR article, required the special permission of Mexican president Vincente Fox. Although early production charts list shooting in New York and Paris, due to financial constraints, Taymor choose to recreate both metropolitan locations within Mexico City.
       A 7 Nov 2002 Wall Street Journal article notes that composer Elliot Goldenthal blended period music with his own compositions and augmented the orchestra with a small group of Mexican musicians playing traditional instruments including the vihuela, guitarrón, marimba and the Mexican harp. In the film, the over-ninety-year-old Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas, at one time Frida’s lover, sings “La Ilorona” while portraying death haunting a drunk and depressed Frida.
       Frida opened the Venice Film Festival on 29 Aug 2002. In addition to being selected as one of AFI’s top ten films of the year, the picture earned a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, by Elliot Goldenthal, and received a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Actress--Drama, for Hayek. Hayek was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress, and the film received Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Best Original Score, in addition to being nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Hayek received a SAG nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Movie, and Alfred Molina was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. The National Board of Review included the film in its list of the 2002 top ten films. The film received a BAFTA for Achievement in Makeup and Hair.
       Although Kahlo has been the subject of many documentaries, according to modern sources, only one other major feature exists about the painter. The 1984 Frida is a Mexican film by director Paul Leduc starring Ofelia Medina, in which, according to a 30 Aug 2000 LAT article, the painter is portrayed as an innocent victim of Rivera’s tyranny. Diego and Kahlo’s New York stay, Diego’s Rockefeller Center commission and the mural’s subsequent destruction, were also depicted in the 1999 film The Cradle Will Rock , about a WPA Federal Theatre Program play in 1930s New York. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Oct 2002.
---
Daily Variety
20 Dec 2000.
---
Daily Variety
14 Aug 2002.
---
Daily Variety
30 Aug 2002.
---
Entertainment Weekly
16 Aug 2002.
---
Entertainment Weekly
27 Sep 2002.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1998.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 2001.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 2001.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24-30 Jul 2001
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug-1 Sep 2002.
---
LA Weekly
25 Oct 2002.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Mar 1997.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1999.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Oct 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 2001.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 2002.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 2002.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Feb 2003
p. E32-33.
New Republic
18 Nov 2002.
---
New York
9 Sep 2002.
---
New York Times
8 Sep 2002.
---
New York Times
24 Oct 2002.
---
New York Times
25 Oct 2002.
---
Screen International
5 Apr 2002.
---
Screen International
23 Aug 2002.
---
The Times (London)
17 Jun 2001.
---
The Times (London)
30 Aug 2002.
---
Time
23 Apr 2001.
---
Variety
9 Sep 2002.
---
Vogue
Dec 2001.
---
Wall Street Journal
7 Nov 2002.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A
A film by Julie Taymor
A Ventanarosa Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
Key 2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d unit 1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam loader
Steadi-cam op
Still photog
Asst still photog
Best boy elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Rigging gaffer
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
2d unit elec
2d unit elec
2d unit elec
2d unit elec
2d unit elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Company grip
Company grip
Dolly grip
2d unit grip
2d unit grip
Grip and lighting provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Asst to prod des
Art dept coord
Asst to art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Graphic des
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Head artist
Frida and Diego''s painting teams:
Head artist
Artist
Artist
Painter's intern
Painter's intern
Painter's intern
Title calligraphy
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Post prod film equipment
Video dailies
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Leadman
Set dressing coord
Head sculptor
Lead scenic
Sr set des
Jr set des
Scenographer
On-set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Warehouse keeper
Set dresser prod asst
Prop master
Prop dept coord
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Picture car coord
Const coord
Const foreman
Warehouse keeper
Head of Grupo Progreso
Head of painters
2d head of group
Greens asst
Head of Grupo America
Head painter
2d head of group
Head of section
Head of painters section
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Los Angeles cost
Ward supv
Ward coord
Cutter/fitter
Seamstress
Tailor
Tailor
Los Angeles cost prod asst
Los Angeles cost prod asst
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus prod
for Gohl/McLaughlin
Mus prod Mexico
Mus prod Mexico
Electronic mus prod
Rec and mixed
Addl rec and mixing
Orch cond
Rec and mixed at
Rec and mixed at
Guitars
Guitars on “La Llorona”
Guitars on “La Llorona”
Addl rec Mexico
Addl rec Mexico
Addl mus preparation
Contracting and mus preparation
Exec in charge of mus
Mus supv
Mus supv
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom operator
Cable puller
Video playback
Video playback asst
Supv sd ed/sd des
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd FX ed
Foley supv
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley recordist
Foley recordist
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec sd mixer
ADR mixer
Dolby sd consultant
Mixed at
Post prod sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
VFX supv, Look! Effects, Inc.
VFX prod, Look! Effects, Inc.
VFX coord, Look! Effects, Inc.
2d supv, Look! Effects, Inc.
VFX supv, Digital Firepower
Digital EFX prod, Film East Effects
VFX consultant and supv, Kleiser-Walczak
Exec visual eff prod, CIS Hollywood
Visual eff supv, CIS Hollywood
Hospital puppet seq
Digital artist, Ameoba Proteus
Digital artist, Ameoba Proteus
Assoc VFX prod, Ameoba Proteus
VFX asst, Ameoba Proteus
Office mgr, Ameoba Proteus
Painter, Ameoba Proteus
Intern, Ameoba Proteus
Intern, Ameoba Proteus
Intern, Ameoba Proteus
Compositor, Look! Effects, Inc.
Lead artist, Digital Firepower
Inferno compositor, Film East Effects
Digital film scanning, Film East Effects
Exec prod, Kleiser-Walczak
Compositing 2d supv, Kleiser-Walczak
3D animator, Kleiser-Walczak
Coord, Motion Control
Op, Motion Control
Op, Motion Control
Asst, Motion Control
Asst, Motion Control
Asst, Motion Control
Sr digital compositor, CIS Hollywood
Digital paint artist, CIS Hollywood
Digital systems mgr, CIS Hollywood
Exec in charge of prod, EFILM
Exec in charge of prod, EFILM
Tech dir, EFILM
Digital mastering prod, EFILM
Editorial, EFILM
Mgr of operations, EFILM
Digital opticals, EFILM
Spec eff coor
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Digital intermediate
Digital opticals
Visual eff scanning
DANCE
Foxtrot choreographer
Dance coach for Ms. Judd
Tango choreography
Tango choreography
Tango choreography
Tango choreography
MAKEUP
Prosthetics des
Prosthetic makeup artist
Key makeup artist
Asst makeup artist
Makeup artist
3D body painting
Key hair stylist
Asst hair stylist
Hair stylist
Wig des
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Prod consultant
Prod consultant
Tech asst prod services co
Mexico casting
Extras casting dir
Extras casting coord
Voice casting
Prod coord
Prod coord
Prod coord
Post prod supv
Scr supv
Research consultant
Visual research consultant
Prod accountant
Accounting supv
1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Accounting clerk
Fiscal accountant
Fiscal accountant
Asst fiscal accountant
Accounting-fiscal
Accounting-post prod
Post prod accountant
Post prod asst
Post prod asst
Post prod intern
Post prod intern
Post prod intern
Unit prod chief
Union prod rep
Anda delegate
Painting coach
Painting coach
Painting coach
Key loc asst
Loc asst
Loc asst
Unit doctor
Const doctor
Security
Security
Security
Coord for Ms. Taymor and Mr. Goldenthal
Asst to Ms. Taymor
Asst to Ms. Green
Asst to Ms. Green
Asst to Ms. Hayek
Asst to Ms. Slotnick
Asst to Ms. Messick
Key set prod asst
Office prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod runner
Prod runner
Prod intern
Prod intern
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dialect coach to Mr. Rush
Asst extras coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
2d transportation asst
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Catering/Craft service
Craft service
Prod buyer
Prod buyer asst
Prod buyer asst
Animal handler
Asst animal handler
Monkey handler
Banking services
Banking services
Banking services
Legal services provided by
Legal services provided by
Legal services provided by
Legal services provided by
Legal services provided by
Legal services Mexico
Legal services Mexico
Legal services Mexico
Mexican prod counsel
STAND INS
Stand-in for Ms. Hayek
Stand-in for Mr. Molina
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital col timer, EFILM
Digital col asst, EFILM
Digital col asst, EFILM
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera (New York, 1983).
SONGS
“Cabecita Loca,” written by Lauro Aguilar Palma, performed by Guty Cárdenas, published by PHAM, courtesy of ICREM
“Soledad,” written by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Lepera, performed by Carlos Gardel, published by Warner Chappell Music (WCM) Argentina, by arrangement with WCM México, courtesy of BMG México
“Dios Nunca Muere,” written by Héctor Córdoba, performed by Organillero, published by PHAM
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SONGS
“Cabecita Loca,” written by Lauro Aguilar Palma, performed by Guty Cárdenas, published by PHAM, courtesy of ICREM
“Soledad,” written by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Lepera, performed by Carlos Gardel, published by Warner Chappell Music (WCM) Argentina, by arrangement with WCM México, courtesy of BMG México
“Dios Nunca Muere,” written by Héctor Córdoba, performed by Organillero, published by PHAM
“Clarinet Marmalade,” performed by Fletcher Henderson, written by Larry Schields & H. W. Ragas, published by EMI Feist Catalogue Inc., courtesy of The Verve Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Lagrimas,” written by Luis Martínez Serrano, performed by Guty Cárdenas & Adolfo Hayes, published by PHAM, courtesy of Columbia Records, under license from Sony Music Entertainment
“Alcoba Azul (Tango),” music by Elliot Goldenthal, lyrics by Hernán Bravo Varela, performed by Lila Downs, published by Mrx Music
“Carabina 30/30,” corrido tradicional, preformed by Poder del Norte, Poder del Norte appears courtesy of D DISA LATIN MUSIC
“El Gusto,” son huasteco tradicional, performed by Trio Huasteco Caimanes de Tamuin
“Ven Chamaquito,” written by J. M. Lacalle, performed by Guty Cárdenas & Cuarteto Cárdenas, courtesy of ICREM
“La Borrachita,” written by Tata Nacho, performed by Lila Downs, published by PHAM, Lila Downs appears courtesy of Narada Records
“La Bruja” and El Cascabel,” son jarocho tradicional, performed by Salma Hayek & Los Vega
“Jumping at the Woodside,” written by William Count Basie, performed by Count Basie and His Orchestra, published by Warner Music Corp (ASCAP), courtesy of The Verve Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Battle to the Death,” written by Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin, publishing Carbet Special Accounts, Affiliation BMI
“El Antifaz,” written by Luis Arcaraz Torras, performed by Liberación, Miguel Galindo, Alejandro Matehuala and Gerardo García, published by SACM, Liberación appears courtesy of D DISA LATIN MUSIC
“La Rielera,” performed by Cilindros, tradicional
“Paloma Negra,” written by Tomás Mendez, performed by Chavela Vargas, published by PHAM, recording by Orfeón Videovox
“Barrio de San Francisco,” written by Trio Los Chapás, performed by Trio Los Chapás, published by Discos Corasón, courtesy of Discos Corasón
“El Conejo,” written by Los Cojolites, performed by Los Cojolites, published by Argos Música, recording by Argos Música
“C’est lui,” performed by Josephine Baker, written by Roger Bernstein, composed by Georges van Parys, published worldwide by Editions Salabert © 1934, courtesy of Arkadia Chansons, by arrangement with Position Soundtrack Services
“La Llorona,” written by Luis Mars, performed by Chavela Vargas & Lila Downs, published by PHAM
“Viva La Vida,” music by Elliot Goldenthal, lyrics by Hernán Bravo Varela, performed by Trio/Marimberos, published by Mrx Music
“Burn It Blue,” music by Elliot Goldenthal, lyrics by Julie Taymor, performed by Caetano Veloso & Lila Downs, published by Zarathustra Music.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 October 2002
Premiere Information:
Venice Film Festival opening: 29 August 2002
World Premiere in Toronto, Canada: 5 September 2002
Production Date:
7 April--July 2001 at Estudios Churubusco Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Miramax Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
2002
Copyright Number:
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; dts Digital Sound; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Kodak Motion Picture Film
gauge
35mm
Lenses/Prints
Camera and lenses by Rocky Mountain Motion Pictures
Duration(in mins):
122-123
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
39203
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1922 Mexico City, capricious schoolgirl Frida Kahlo lives with her father Guillermo, a German-Jewish photographer, and her stern Mexican-Indian mother Matilde in their family home, Casa Azul. One day Frida and her boyfriend Alex sneak into an auditorium and catch muralist Diego Rivera seducing his model. Frida startles the couple and tells the married Diego that she is “just keeping him honest.” Days later, when Frida dresses as a man for the family portrait at her sister Cristina’s wedding, Guillermo indulges her, believing in her creativity and independence, despite Matilde’s protests. One day in 1925, Frida is on a crowded city bus when a collision with a trolley crushes her leg and leaves her with severe spinal injuries. During subsequent grueling operations, Frida dreams of broken bones and the taunting skeletons of doctors and nurses talking about her slim chances for survival. After three weeks, Frida returns home in a full body cast to find that her beloved Alex is leaving for Paris. In order to endure the heartbreak and excruciating pain, Frida determinedly begins to draw, covering her cast in bright butterflies. Her parents, although nearly bankrupt from the operations, buy her an easel and place a mirror in the canopy above her bed, thus enabling Frida to begin a series of self-portraits. After an extensive recovery period, Frida regains her ability to walk and decides to take her paintings to the now famous Diego. After warning him that she is aware of his womanizing, Frida demands his honest opinion. Diego sincerely compliments her talents and invites her to a “radical” party held at photographer Tina Modotti’s house. At the party, Diego’s second wife Lupe Marín scoffs ... +


In 1922 Mexico City, capricious schoolgirl Frida Kahlo lives with her father Guillermo, a German-Jewish photographer, and her stern Mexican-Indian mother Matilde in their family home, Casa Azul. One day Frida and her boyfriend Alex sneak into an auditorium and catch muralist Diego Rivera seducing his model. Frida startles the couple and tells the married Diego that she is “just keeping him honest.” Days later, when Frida dresses as a man for the family portrait at her sister Cristina’s wedding, Guillermo indulges her, believing in her creativity and independence, despite Matilde’s protests. One day in 1925, Frida is on a crowded city bus when a collision with a trolley crushes her leg and leaves her with severe spinal injuries. During subsequent grueling operations, Frida dreams of broken bones and the taunting skeletons of doctors and nurses talking about her slim chances for survival. After three weeks, Frida returns home in a full body cast to find that her beloved Alex is leaving for Paris. In order to endure the heartbreak and excruciating pain, Frida determinedly begins to draw, covering her cast in bright butterflies. Her parents, although nearly bankrupt from the operations, buy her an easel and place a mirror in the canopy above her bed, thus enabling Frida to begin a series of self-portraits. After an extensive recovery period, Frida regains her ability to walk and decides to take her paintings to the now famous Diego. After warning him that she is aware of his womanizing, Frida demands his honest opinion. Diego sincerely compliments her talents and invites her to a “radical” party held at photographer Tina Modotti’s house. At the party, Diego’s second wife Lupe Marín scoffs at Frida, insinuating that she is just another of Diego’s many lovers. Late that night, when Diego argues with competing painter David Alfaro Siqueiros about Communist politics, David retorts that the rich hire Diego only to “assuage their sense of guilt.” Infuriated, Diego shoots at David, but misses. Trying to break the tension, Tina offers to dance with the winner of a drinking contest. Frida quickly swallows half a bottle of liquor and leads Tina in a sultry dance. Over the following months, Diego, a Communist party leader, introduces Frida to a fervent political life and makes her his studio protégé. After he proposes that they take a vow to be only friends and colleagues, Frida kisses him. When a fun-loving affair grows into a romance, Diego proposes to Frida, promising to be loyal but not faithful. During the marriage ceremony, the middle-class Frida wears brightly colored traditional Mexican dress, which becomes her signature style and reflects her and Diego’s interest in pre-Hispanic Mexican culture. Soon after, Frida learns that Diego has leased an apartment to Lupe upstairs. Frida is furious, but after time, she and Lupe develop a friendship that helps Frida cope with Diego’s voracious appetite for food and women. When Diego is offered a solo show at a New York museum, the couple moves there. While Diego works and continues to have affairs, Frida entertains herself with the city’s attractions, movies and affairs of her own. While watching King Kong one day, Frida fantasizes that Diego is Kong and that she is his helpless victim. Although Diego enjoys his success and ensuing popularity in the New York art world, Frida despises the pretentious, ambitious crowd. Months into their stay, Frida becomes pregnant, but loses the child in a traumatic miscarriage. Demanding to see her child, Frida is given the miscarried fetus in a bottle of formaldehyde, which becomes a subject of her drawings. Soon after her recovery, Frida is called home to be with her dying mother, while Diego remains in New York to finish a mural for the Rockefeller Center lobby. When Diego refuses to remove a portrait of Lenin from the painting, Nelson Rockefeller orders the mural destroyed. As hundreds of people protest outside the building, Frida, who has returned to New York, assures Diego that his success resides in arousing the people’s passions and ideals, not in the finished work. After a Chicago commission is canceled that winter, the couple returns to Mexico City, where they live in separate studios connected by a bridge. Frida then hires divorced and impoverished Cristina to work with the depressed Diego in the studio, but soon after discovers Diego and her sister having sex. Pained by the betrayal, Frida announces to Diego, “There have been two accidents in my life. The trolley and you. You are by far the worst.” Moving into a run-down apartment, Frida shears her long hair and begins drinking heavily while continuing her work. Months later, on the Day of Dead, Diego finds Frida at her mother’s grave and asks her to take Communist Russian political refugee Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia into Casa Azul, where they will be protected by armed guards. Frida graciously invites the couple to the family home, where, during dinners with Diego, Frida and other compatriots, the charismatic Trotsky warns that both Hitler and Stalin have fallen victim to their own power. Frida, now accompanied by her pet monkey, continues to paint, creating surreal landscapes and cityscapes filled with death and suffering. One day on a group outing to the ruins of the Teotihuacan Pyramids, Trotsky compliments Frida on her ability to express universal pain and loneliness through her paintings, but Frida has little confidence in her work despite selling paintings to collectors. As the weeks pass, Frida and Trotsky grow closer and an affair begins, but when Natalia learns of the infidelity, Trotsky moves with his wife to another house. Frida explains to Diego that Trotsky sacrificed his pleasure with Frida to save his marriage, accusing Diego of being incapable of such depth of feeling. Offered a solo show in Paris, Frida enjoys a series of affairs there, but misses Diego and attributes the show’s success to Mexican exoticism. Soon after, when Trotsky and Natalia are murdered in Mexico, Diego asks Frida for a divorce and flees to California to avoid a possible Mexican jail sentence for his association with Trotsky. When Frida refuses to reveal Diego’s location during police interrogations, she is sentenced to prison, where she suffers a physical decline from the harsh conditions. After she is finally freed with Diego’s help, several of her toes must be amputated due to gangrene. Relegated to a wheelchair and forced to live in a cumbersome back brace, Frida continues to make self-portraits revealing the torture of living in her body. Diego, now wealthy from his commissions, misses Frida’s companionship and asks to marry her again. They move back into Casa Azul, where Cristina cares for her ailing sister, giving her daily injections to relieve her pain. In 1953, on the eve of her first solo exhibition in Mexico, Frida’s physician refuses her request to leave her bed and attend the opening; however, during Diego’s speech praising Frida’s ingenuity, to everyone’s surprise, Frida is carted into the gallery still in her bed. Two weeks before their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Frida gives her husband a silver ring to celebrate and asks that he cremate her upon her death. She writes in her journal, “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return,” and dreams of her bed alight with fireworks that burn her body as she peacefully sleeps. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.