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Amilcar Tirado Biography

Amilcar Tirado (1922-2004)

Amilcar Tirado, one of Puerto Ricoís foremost filmmakers, was born in Coamo, the Caribbean islandís third town, on 9th April 1922. At the age of 18 he studied under Leopoldo Santiago Lavandero, who would later go on to become director of the Division of Community Education. Tirado helped him found the Teatro de la UPR before going on to study theatre at Yale University in the United States, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts.

Tiradoís early film career was closely associated with Jack and Irene Delano, to whom he was recommended by Lavandero in 1945. Jack Delano had travelled to Puerto Rico to work on an assignment for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and was so taken with the place that he settled there permanently with his wife in 1946. The couple both worked in the Community Division of the Department of Public Education. Tirado was involved with the Delanos in a short-lived attempt to establish a workshop to help Gurabo peasants develop their acting skills. Tirado was hired by Jack Delano and succeeded him as director of the Community Divisionís Cinema section.

The work of the Division de Educacion de la Comunidad (DivEdCo) involved the education of the Puerto Rican population about its culture and citizenship. Tirado assisted Jack Delano in the production of a number of films for the division, including Una Gota de Agua (1949) and Los Peloteros (1951), Puerto Ricoís first feature-length film for which Tirado provided the original story.

Tiradoís first film as director of DivEdCo was Una voz en la Montana (A Voice in the Mountains) a drama based on fact about a group of neighboursí attempts to establish a night school for agricultural workers. The film won a Diploma of Merit at the Venice Film Festival and a Special Mention at the Edinburgh Film Festival Ė the first time such honours had been bestowed upon a Puerto Rican filmmaker. His 1954 film, El Puente, about a group of peasants working together to build a bridge, received similar acclaim.

Tirado worked for DivEdCo for 16 years. In the mid-fifties he lived in Greece where he developed an interest in the works of Euripides and Sophocles and the work of the Greek National Theatre.

Sometime around 1957 the Hollywood-based Austrian director Fred Zinnemann saw Tiradoís film El Puente at a festival to celebrate the work of documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, and was sufficiently impressed to invite the Puerto Rican to work with him on A Nunís Story in Hollywood.

He left DivEdCo in 1965 to work for a couple of years as a tutor in the audiovisual department of UPR. Tirado, possessor of a tireless mind with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, was a lifelong student. In 1968 he completed his Master of Educational Cinematography at the University of California. In 1973, following stints as a director of the Puerto Rican Community Film Workshop, and also of the film department of Westbury College, Long Island, New York, and the Department of Puerto Rican Studies at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, he earned a doctorate degree in philosophy at the Union Graduate School. He then worked as a professor in the Department of Social Studies in the University of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

In 1977, Tirado moved to New York where he lived and worked for six years until he returned to Puerto Rico to work with Don Ricardo Alegria at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Tirado continued his studies well into his sixties, earning a Masters in Puerto Rican Studies at the Centre for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in 1989, and then a PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of Vallodid in Spain.

In later years, Tirado suffered a kidney condition that left him virtually housebound, and his keen mind was cruelly afflicted by Alzheimerís Disease. He died of respiratory failure at the age of 81 at Pavia Hospital, Santurce, Puerto Rico at 6am on Sunday 24th January 2004. His funeral at the National Cemetary at Hato Tejas, Bayamon was attended by around only twenty people, including family. He was survived by Evelyn Figueroa Ortiz, his wife of nineteen years and their children Hamilcar and Aissa Astrid Tirado Aviles.

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Amilcar Tirado Filmography

 

 

 

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