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Rodrigo Prieto. Photo: YouTube.
Rodrigo Prieto. Photo: YouTube.

Who is Rodrigo Prieto? The wizard of light and framing in Scorsese's films

The Mexican is one of the most sought-after directors of photography with films such as The Irishman and Amores Perros. 

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Most people, even if they are cinephiles, don't go beyond the name of the filmmaker or the actors in a production, as if the success or failure of a film depended solely on them. 

But neither Scorsese nor Tarantino, nor any other famous creator we can think of, does anything without a team behind them, and above all without a director of photography who, halfway between technique and art, makes decisions about framing, lighting and composition.

In short, the mise-en-scène. 

Rodrigo Prieto has become one of Hollywood's most sought-after cinematographers on his own merits. His CV includes landmark films such as Amores Perros (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Silence (2016), for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and he was also behind The Irishman.

This year, Prieto will not be walking the red carpet, as The Glorias, Julie Taymor's film scripted by Taymor and Sarah Ruhl from Gloria Steinem's book My Life on the Road, did not make it past the nominations. However, the Mexican has just been awarded the 2021 Vilcek Film Prize. The foundation that celebrates the contributions of migrant pioneers in the arts and sciences.

Other major figures in their respective fields, such as geneticist Ruth Lehmann, chemical biologist Mohamed Abou Donia, entrepreneur (and former presidential candidate) Andrew Yang and several filmmakers, including Juan Pablo González, Miko Revereza and Nanfu Wang, have also received the award.

"As leaders in the arts, we have a responsibility to promote diversity by creating space, providing access and amplifying the artistic contributions of marginalised groups and individuals. Thus, the Vilcek Awards in the arts and humanities allow us to speak to the value of immigration to our society in a non-politicised way," said Vilcek Foundation president Rick Kinsel.

The award joins many others Prieto has garnered throughout a career full of accolades and successes in film, television and even music videos.

In fact, Prieto was the director of photography for Taylor Swift's latest music video, "The Man," which she directed herself.

The singer, who just won a Grammy for her album Folklore, said of him: "Rodrigo, one of Scorsese's favourite collaborators, is the most incredible person I've ever worked with, I can't believe my luck."

Not only Swift and Scorsese have been lucky, but also Oliver Stone (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2010) and Pedro Almodóvar (Broken Embraces, 2009), among many, many others. 

Because if there is one thing Prieto is great at, it is working behind the camera and doing it in a very unconventional way, with evocative and detailed compositions behind which we can glimpse the DNA of an artist who uses technology instead of a paintbrush. 

The cinematographer is now immersed in the shooting of another new Scorsese film, Killers of the Flower Moon, a film set in 1920s Oklahoma about a series of murders in the Osage tribe based on a non-fiction work by writer David Grann.

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