A film was once called a “biograph”; now we generally say “cinematograph.”

Borges and Film

In the 1930s, Jorge Luis Borges developed a passion for the cinema. He wrote numerous short film reviews, animated by a charming crankiness and revealing a fondness for gangster movies. Although time has rendered many of his reviews hopelessly esoteric, Borges’ general comments on Hollywood, international cinema, and the pitfalls of filmmaking remain surprisingly relevant. He also tried his hand at scriptwriting, sometimes working with his friend and partner Adolfo Bioy Casares. As blindness overcame him in the 1950s, Borges stopped reviewing films, but his interest in cinema remained keen, and he frequently discussed its history and aesthetics in interviews.

This section of The Garden of Forking Paths explores films related to Borges, from adaptations to documentaries about his life. It does not attempt to enumerate the many films that contain Borges quotations or have been labeled “Borgesian” by critics. For a wonderful discussion of Borges’ impact on the French nouvelle vague and avant-garde British cinema, I recommend Edgardo Cozarinsky’s essay “Film and Borges” collected in Borges In/And/On Film.

Borges-Related Screenplays

The following films are based on ideas or screenplays written by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares.

Invasión (1969)
Directed by Hugo Santiago, this Argentine film depicts a surreal invasion of a fictional city. [Spanish]

Les Autres (1974)
Directed by Hugo Santiago, “The Others” is about Spinoza, his son, and their shared mistress. [French]

Los orilleros (1975)
Directed by Ricardo Luna, Los orilleros is a pensive Spaghetti Western set in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. [Spanish]

Feature-Length Adaptations

The following films are an hour or longer in length. Made for television or for theatrical release, each was inspired by a Borges short story.

Días de odio (1954)
Torre Nilsson’s Days of Hatred is a film-noir adaptation of Borges’ short story “Emma Zunz.” [Spanish]

Hombre de la esquina rosada  (1962)
René Múgica’s adaptation of Borges’ first short story, “Man on a Pink Corner.” [Spanish]

Emma Zunz (1969)
Directed by Alain Magrou, this disappointing adaptation of “Emma Zunz” was made for French television. [French]

La strategia del ragno (1970)
Translated as “The Spider’s Stratagem,” Bernard Bertolucci’s magnificent adaptation of Borges’ story “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” relocates the setting to postwar Italy. [Italian]

Ghazal (1975)
Directed by Massoud Kimiai, this Iranian film is based on Borges’ story, “The Intruder.” [Persian]

El muerto (1975)
Directed by Héctor Olivera, “The Dead Man” is the story of a renegade Argentine who joins a band of Uruguayan bandits. Also known as Cacique Bandeira. [Spanish]

A intrusa (1979)
Directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen, this erotic Brazilian film is based on “The Intruder.” [Portuguese]

Oraingoz Izen Gabe (1986)
Directed by José Bakedano, this Basque film is based on “The Intruder.” [Basque and Spanish]

Guerreros y cautivas (1990)
This Revisionist Western by Edgardo Cozarinsky is an adaptation of “The Story of the Warrior and the Captive.” [Spanish and French]

Los cuentos de Borges (1993)
Produced for Spanish television, this anthology consists of six hour-long films based on Borges stories: El sur, La otra historia de Rosendo Juárez, Emma Zunz, La intrusa, El evangelio según Marcos, and Death and the Compass. [Spanish, French, English]

Death and the Compass (1996)
An adaptation of Borges’ famous detective story by British director Alex Cox, this movie is an extended episode of Los cuentos de Borges. [English]

Borges-Related Films

The following films are not technically adaptations, but each has been inspired by Borges in some unique way.

Performance (1970)
Directed by cinematic provocateurs Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell, this infamous gangster film is set in Swinging London, and stars Mick Jagger as a debauched rock star. This page also contains notes about Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Demon Seed. [English]

Un amor de Borges (2000)
Directed by Javier Torre, “A Love of Borges’” is about Borges’ affair with Argentine writer Estela Canto. [Spanish]

Historias Extraordinarias (2008)
This four-hour movie by Argentine filmmaker Mariano Llinás “plays out as a series of nested Borgesian narratives that zigzag across different characters, locations, and genres.” Clicking this link takes you to the film’s trailer on YouTube. [Offsite; Spanish]

Onde Borges Tudo Vê (2012)
This Brazilian film by Tatiana Valério features an old blind man, a hamster named Borges, and an “unpublished” manuscript by Jorge Luis Borges. [Portuguese, YouTube]

Aleph (2021)
By Iva Radivojević. “Loosely inspired by the works of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, Aleph is a travelogue of experience, a journey to find that place of connection, of clarity, of understanding across language, geography and experience. The thoughts, ideas and dreams of protagonists in ten countries spanning five continents are revealed through conversation, activity and contemplation. These collective stories serve as pieces of a puzzle that lead to what the  Borges called ‘the unimaginable universe’.” Clicking this link takes you to the film’s Web site, which features a trailer. [Offsite; English]

Feature Documentaries

The following documentaries are a half-hour or longer in length, and were generally produced for television.

Los paseos con Borges (1975)
Directed by Adolfo García Videla, this Argentine/Mexican documentary was one of the earliest television shows about Borges, and features some wonderful footage. Clicking this link takes you directly to the YouTube video of the documentary. [Spanish]

Borges para millones (1978)
Borges for Millions is an early Argentine documentary directed by Ricardo Wullicher and based around an extended interview with Borges. [Spanish]

Profile of a Writer: Borges (1993)
This English-language documentary features dramatic recreations of Borges’ works. [English]

Borges, el eterno retorno (1999)
Produced with the cooperation of María Kodama, Borges: The Eternal Return is an Argentine documentary directed by Patricia Enis and Fernando Flores. [Spanish w/French subtitles]

Los libros y la noche (1999)
Directed by Tristán Bauer, The Books and the Night is a “documentary fiction” that narrates the life of Borges through actual footage and dramatic recreations. [Spanish]

Jorge Luis Borges: El Hombre Espejo(1999)
Directed by Felipe Molins with text by Alberto Manuel, this documentary features English subtitles. Clicking this link takes you directly to the YouTube video of the documentary. [Spanish]

Documenta: Jorge Luis Borges (2011?)
An episode of the Argentine show Documenta by Román Lejtman. Clicking this link takes you directly to the YouTube video of the documentary. [Spanish]

Documentary Shorts

The following documentaries are under a half-hour, and were generally produced for the Internet. None of these shorts has a Garden page devoted to them; clicking a title takes you to the short on YouTube.

Genios: Jorge Luis Borges (2018)
A humorous look at Borges produced by La Banana Rancia. [Spanish, YouTube]

Borges 120 (2019)
This fifteen-minute long piece celebrates the 120th anniversary of Borges’s birth. It examines Borges from “each country where Penguin Random House Editorial Group is located, with particular stories and anecdotes.” María Kodama is interviewed. [Spanish, YouTube]

10 curiosidades sobre Jorge Luis Borges (2016)
Jonathan Saúl is an Argentine YouTube producer who runs “El Club del Libro en Folio.” In this interesting video, Saúl discusses ten “curiosities” about Borges, including his fondness for Pink Floyd. [Spanish, YouTube]

Ovejas Eléctricas: Borges en Babel (2016)
Quetzal’s crowd-funded “Electric Sheep” productions is behind this charming and informative short about Borges. [Spanish, YouTube]

Short Films

The follow films are all under an hour, and are a mix of shorts, student films, and indie projects. Few of these shorts has a Garden page devoted to them; clicking a title generally takes you to the film itself on YouTube or Vimeo, or its entry on IMDB. And yes, most are versions of “Emma Zunz!”

Crónica de Emma Zunz (1966)
A black & white adaptation of “Emma Zunz” by Spanish director Jesús Martínez León. [Spanish, IMDB]

Splits (1978)
An avant-garde adaptation of “Emma Zunz” directed by artist Leandro Katz. [English]

Emma Zunz (1978)
Directed by Miguel Falquez-Certain and Eric Van Felix, this American short was filmed on Super-8. [English, YouTube]

Emma Zunz (1979)
A Canadian 20-min short directed by Isabel Beveridge. [English, IMDB]

Emma Zunz (1984)
A Dutch short directed by Peter Delpeut. [Dutch, IMDB]

Emma Zunz (1985)
This Mexican short film was Directed by Giangicaomo Tabet. [Spanish, IMDB]

Emma Zunz (2004)
A student film directed in Argentina by E. Rohde Scheel, E. Salazar, and N. Benitez. [Spanish, YouTube]

Emma Zunz (2006)
This Polish short was directed by Maxim Ford, and is one of the best versions of “Emma Zunz” on film. [Polish w/ English subtitles, YouTube]

Emma Zunz (2010)
By Xóchitl Ponzze, this is a spoken-word “Emma Zunz” is accompanied by Beethoven sonatas and crude line drawings. [Spanish, YouTube]

Emma Zunz (2013)
A 16mm short directed by Gonzalo Bazillo, this well-made film uses Emma’s police interrogation as a framing device. [Spanish, YouTube]

The Circular Ruins (2017)
This short film by Nisara Somani features an abbreviated reading of “The Circular Ruins” set to music by Loreena McKennitt. [English, YouTube]

Emma Zunz (2018)
This interesting Mexican adaptation of by Dominique Caballero has no dialogue, and focuses on Emma’s letter. [This short used to be on Vimeo, but has been removed. If anyone has access to it, please contact the Garden!]

Additional Information

Borges In/And/On Film — Published in 1974 and frequently revised, Edgardo Cozarinsky’s book contains all Borges’ published reviews and film commentary, plus Cozarinsky’s own essays and reviews of cinematic Borges adaptations. This section of the Garden frequently quotes from Cozarinsky’s insightful work. The link takes you to the Garden’s review of the book.

Selected Non-Fictions — Published in 1999 and edited by Eliot Weinberger, Penguin’s Selected Nonfictions features some of Borges writing on cinema.

IMDB Borges Page — This page on the Internet Movie Database links to all entries involving Borges.

Author: Allen B. Ruch
Last Modified: 22 October 2022
Main Borges Page: The Garden of Forking Paths
Contact: quail(at)shipwrecklibrary(dot)com

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