Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) was born to a landowning family in rural Aragon in Spain. As a young boy he went to a Jesuit school in Zaragoza from which he was allegedly expelled. It was probably there that he acquired a distaste for the church which would last him a lifetime.
He then went on to Madrid where he studied at the university there he became a friend of fellow students; painter Salvador Dalí and poet Frederico Lorca. His seminal Un Chien Andalou (1927) became an instant surrealist classic. Its incoherent narrative, shocking imagery and loaded symbols amounted to a visual manifesto of surrealism (since there is no node yet, alternatively have a go at the Second Dada Manifesto or, for the conceptually challenged the Manifesto Of The Subrealist Film Movement beckons). He thereafter made L'Age D'Or (e. The Golden Age), partially with Dalí, a movie even more controversial, in France it received a strong reaction and was banned after a rightist group vandalized the theater were it was shown.
In the wake of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the Second world war following Buñuel entered a creative hiatus. This hiatus included a short stint at Hollywood. It would not be lifted until he moved to Mexico, where he later became a naturalized citizen. In Mexico he would reestablish his reputation as a progressive artist. His Los Olvidados (e. The Forgotten Ones), a magically realistic look at life in the slums of Mexico City, has been recognised as an UNESCO Memory of the World programme object of value. The reason that Los Olvidados was chosen is that it
is the most important document in Spanish about the marginal lives of children in contemporary large cities, and it is also a crude, realist vision, without any concessions, of one part of Mexican society, focalized in a Mexico City slum in which the characters, who have been observed carefully and truthfully, follow their necessary destiny as a result of the social and economic circumstances that surround them. 1
It is a special honor for a commercial/artistic film to be recognised as an important document in preserving the history of mankind. At its premiere in Mexico the Mexican bourgeoisie felt offended, presumably because the audience did not appreciate Buñuel's efforts to humanize beggars, and the movie was considered controversial. In Mexico Buñuel also did more commercially oriented movies such as an adaptation of Robinson Cruseo (1954) without much commercial success.
In the late 1960s Buñuel moved to France where a productive phase of his career began with the collaboration of producer Serge Silberman and writer Jean Carrere. There he made some of his more successful films including: The Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), Belle de jour (1967), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), The Phantom of Liberty (1974) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). He died of liver cirrhosis in Mexico City in 1983. Before he died, he thanked God he was an atheist.
1 - http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=6875&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html