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Director Takes Field With Soccer Film

Mexican filmmaker Carlos Cuaron wrote and directed the newly-released "Rudo y Cursi."
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This story was written by CBSNews.com's Ken Lombardi.

In the week since the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival officially ended, industry buzz has started to grow over "Rudo y Cursi," one of the signature movies presented there.

This Mexican dramatic comedy, already a blockbuster hit and a significant influence on pop culture in the filmmakers' native country, serves as a reunion of sorts for acclaimed actors, and close friends, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal.

Pals since childhood, the pair worked together on Mexican soap operas and eventually gained international stardom when they starred together in the sexually-charged worldwide sleeper hit, "Y Tu Mamá También."

That 2001 breakout road-trip film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón ("Children Of Men," "Harry Potter 4") and the screenplay for that film was written by his brother, Carlos, who now serves as the principal filmmaker behind "Rudo y Cursi."

During the festival in New York, Carlos spoke with CBS News about his transition from successful screenwriter to first-time director.

"I wanted to create a social portrait of my country. The Mexican dream has become a nightmare...There's no opportunity for today's youth," Cuarón said of "Rudo y Cursi," which focuses on two poverty-stricken brothers (Bernal and Luna) from a destitute banana farm who wind up in Mexico City as star soccer players.

Before too long, the duo begins to suffer from the pitfalls of fame, exacerbated by their own personal vices.

The first-time feature director insisted that this is not a traditional sports film. Cuarón said the focus is off the field, on the relationship between the two brothers. "What we see is the human reaction to what's going on on the field," Cuarón said.

"I didn't want to make a movie about sports. It's a movie about brotherhood, that's the main theme," he said. "Brotherhood is universal. The way you relate to your sibling is very close to the way I relate to mine."

As Beto, nicknamed "Rudo" (which translates as "Crude"), Luna portrays an athlete prone to jealousy and addicted to gambling. Meanwhile, Rudo's brother Tato (Bernal), nicknamed Cursi ("Corny"), suffers from an inflated ego and excessive spending.

In perhaps one of the film's funniest and memorable moments, Bernal's character records a cheaply produced Spanish-language song called "Quiero Que Me Quieras," a hysterical demo version of the classic Cheap Trick anthem, "I Want You To Want Me."

"The soundtrack has become a big hit in Mexico," said Cuarón, who jokingly translated the lyrics after hearing the song on the radio while driving his children to school. Now, Bernal's cover version, which is so bad that it's good, has emerged as a popular ringtone in Mexico City.

Hilarity ensues in "Rudo y Cursi" as Bernal's character even dons a cheap and tacky cowboy outfit for a karoake-style music video. Cuarón said that he hoped to satirize this format, which is popular in Mexico. It is an example of the way the filmaker combines comic moments with scenes of social commentary.

A lot is expected of Cuarón, an acclaimed screenwriter whose brother already is an established film director. Yet he is confident in "Rudo y Cursi," partly because of his long-established connections with the leading stars.

"We (Bernal, Cuarón , and Luna) are all pretty silly together…We know how to read each others moods," the director said. "I wanted them to feel like real professional players. I had to teach them how to play because they were so bad."

They may not be the greatest soccer players, but their acting talent has generated a great deal of viewer and press interest in "Rudo y Cursi," which was produced by hit filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro ("Pan's Labryinth") and Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Babel"), along with Alfonso Cuarón.

"Rudo y Cursi" is now playing in limited release.

By Ken Lombardi