The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada draws on two sources of influence. One being the real-life killing of an American teenager, Esequiel Hernandez Jr, during a military operation at the Texas/Mexico border. The other source is that of William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying. The plot from Faulkner’s novel is applied to the film, and the director, Tommy Lee Jones uses these two influences to impart a morality tale onto the silver screen.
The tale is one that explores race, morality of killing a man, responsibility for one’s actions, a promise and redemption. Set to the backdrop of Texas and Mexico it becomes a modern western as it shows that issues that arose centuries past still affect the life blood of the people who occupy this land.
This is Jones’ first theatrically released feature film. His first film was the made for tv movie The Good Old Boys. The film was shot in various parts of Texas to give it an authentic western feel. Jones would go on to win the Best Actor prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Pete Perkins.