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Once again, a Mexican filmmaker takes Oscars by storm

/ 06:25 PM February 26, 2019
Alfonso Cuaron

Alfonso Cuaron accepts the Foreign Language Film award for ‘Roma’ onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Feb. 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP

Alfonso Cuaron’s big Oscars night — three golden statuettes for his personal film “Roma”, including his second for best director — once again highlights the major success in Hollywood for Mexican filmmakers.

This time, though, is a bit different. When Cuaron won the first time, it was for space epic “Gravity,” a mega-studio production with a budget of $100 million (around P5.2 billion) and mega-stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

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In sharp contrast, “Roma” was an intimate black-and-white movie about a family in turmoil in 1970s Mexico City, and the class dynamics that reigned. It also was filmed in Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec dialect.

It was the first film Cuaron made in his homeland since he burst onto the scene with his coming-of-age flick “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” The cast and crew of the Netflix production were nearly all Mexicans.

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Cuaron’s success is “good for all of Mexican cinema,” the president of the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences, Ernesto Contreras, told AFP.

“We owe the success of ‘Roma’ to Alfonso Cuaron, but also to his team, from the actresses to production designer to sound technicians.”

Guillermo del Toro speaks onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Feb. 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP

‘Three amigos’

For years, the Oscars have become a bit of a love fest for the so-called “three amigos” of Mexican filmmakers, who have won the best director trophy for five of the past six years.

It started with “Gravity”, which won seven Oscars in 2014, including best cinematography for Mexico’s Emmanuel Lubezki.

The following year, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu triumphed with “Birdman”, which won four Oscars including best picture and best director.

And in 2016, Inarritu scored again with “The Revenant” — the director and Lubezki again took home statuettes, as did lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. He again won a special achievement Oscar for his interactive “Carne y Arena” (2017).

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Last year, it was Guillermo del Toro’s turn — his fantasy romance “The Shape of Water” earned four Oscars including best picture and best director.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu attends the premiere of “The Shape of Water,” Nov. 15, 2017 at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science in Beverly Hills, California. Image: Robyn Beck/AFP

‘Interesting things’

For film critic and researcher Rafael Avina, “Roma” made Hollywood realize that “in Mexico, we are doing interesting things.”

Avina also highlighted the great esteem for Mexican filmmakers in Europe.

Amat Escalante, Carlos Reygadas and Michel Franco have made waves at the top film festivals in the world — Cannes, Berlin and Venice.

“Mexicans conquering Hollywood and Europe — that is going to continue, that train has left the station,” Avina said.

In “Roma,” Cuaron was able to explore racism in Mexican society through his main character, Cleo, patterned on his own nanny and played by a first-time actress of indigenous descent, Yalitza Aparicio.

“I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman… a character that historically has been relegated in the background in cinema,” Cuaron told the Oscars audience.

“As artists, our jobs are to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away.”

For Mexico’s film critics, the worldwide success of “Roma” also presents a major challenge for the country’s movie industry — raising awareness among local filmgoers about the quality of homegrown, auteur films.

“If this inspires our audiences to have confidence in films made by Mexican filmmakers and if the state supports their efforts, we will have taken a major step forward,” says critic Carlos Bonfil. MKH

RELATED STORIES:

Cuaron wins two Oscars for ‘Roma’ on Hollywood’s biggest night

Alfonso Cuaron reinvents how he makes films with ‘Roma’

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TAGS: 91st Academy Awards, Academy Awards, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, Alfonso Cuaron, Best Director, Guillermo del Toro, Mexico, Oscars
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