Monday, December 24, 2018

Roma: An Unprecedented Best Picture Nomination for a Movie in Spanish

By José Alberto Hermosillo

After the announcement of Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards nominations, “Roma,” the epic Mexican gem in Spanish, is facing the realm of being nominated only for Best Foreign Language film. But the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival is a contender in other categories, including Best Picture at the Oscars® 2019.

The New York Film Critics Circle and LA Film Critics Association agree “Roma” is the year’s best Picture.

In recent years, the Oscars® has been under fire for the lack of diversity and inclusion. Among other desperate measures, the Academy® extended memberships to more individuals in the film industry from around the world. The new international members can be a big boost for foreign films in Hollywood, such as “Roma,” “Cold War,” and “Shoplifters.”

The Academy can’t make everybody happy with the most popular film award, and to give out an Oscar® is not the “Miss Congeniality” contest. Controversially enough, the Academy has to place aside peoples’ favorite choices to value the technical qualities of a film.

The members of every branch have specific norms to evaluate each submitted film and recognize them with the deserved award.

Academy® voters may not fall for a black & white movie in Spanish with no big movie stars displaying a slice of life set in Mexico City in 1971.

The style of the Mexican film is closer to Italian Neorealism and may not appeal to many American viewers, but others are big-time fans of the director’s work. At the same time, members will know how to recognize the talent, beauty, and perfection that the Netflix production called “Roma” has.

One of the main reasons Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” conquered the voters’ eye last year was for the harmonic combination of all the aspects of filmmaking, directing and acting, cinematography and art design, costumes and makeup, sound and music. Something similar can happen to “Roma.” 
As long as the project made by the director of “Y tú mama también” complies with Academy rules, the film can compete in other categories such as Best Original Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Set Design, Sound Design, Costumes, Directing, Acting, and even Best Picture.

One thing is undoubted: the visionary filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón conceived this masterpiece without showing the entire script to his actors. A challenge that only great directors can achieve. 

Understanding the movie may require multiple viewings. Mainly because we have to learn the importance of the film’s place and time – Mexico City – year: 1971 – two of the main elements of this uneasy film.

The richness of the production in “Roma” is perceptible with the authentic reconstruction of Colonia Roma and its vicinity.

The director worked tirelessly with the Oscar® winner set designer Emilio Caballero (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), who previously reconstructed the devastated area of the Tsunami in Asia for the film “The Impossible.” More recently, Emilio did a fine job in the fantastic movie “A Monster Calls.”

The elaboration of the interiors and exteriors in “Roma” was a gigantic work of art because that “colonia” was destroyed after the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes.
Roma ©2018 Netflix
To build all the streets, hospitals, and movie theaters, Alfonso Cuarón and Emilio Caballero had to rely on pictures, videos, newspapers, and memories of their childhood.

The filmmakers want us to discover specific details that the film has but doesn’t tell us openly.

Roma is a town located in the middle of Mexico City. A place of transit where people pass by on their way to the “Zócalo,” also known as Plaza de la Constitución. People’s destination is a Civic Center that we don’t see in the Picture. That place is considered Ground Zero for individuals to publicly celebrate, dance, vote, protest, and publicly demonstrate their political concerns.
"Roma" actresses, Yalitzia Aparicio (Cleo), Nancy Garcia (Adela), María de Tavira (Señora Sofía). Photo José Hermosillo ©2018 Festival in LA
The story of “Roma” happens in a tumultuous time under the “populist” or “leftist” presidency of Luis Echeverria (1970-1976). He was responsible for the “Corpus Christi Massacre” perpetrated by the government-sponsored and trained by the CIA called the “Falcons,” also known as the “Alcones” displayed in the film. More than one hundred students were killed.

Echeverria was elected “democratically” but also had prominent involvement in the riots of 1968. The army killed dozens of students protesting in the streets in the barrio of Tlatelolco in 1968.

Those tumultuous times in Mexico included the organization of the 1968 Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup in 1970 and the subway construction. Elements that represented another setback for Mexico’s economy. 

The government wanted to show a different face of Mexico to the world. In the 1970s, the people suffered the consequences of the tremendous burden-those investments generated.
Roma ©2018 Netflix
In Oscar history, a film in Spanish has never been nominated for Best Picture. There is a collection of movies that were “partially” spoken in Spanish but never won: “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) “Giant” (1956), The Postman/Il Postino” (1995), “Traffic” (2000), and “Babel” (2006).

Another example of a foreign-made film nominated for Best Picture was the silent film set in Hollywood, “The Artist.” A French, USA, and Belgium production that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2011. A French victory for many.

Therefore, a foreign language film released in USA movie theaters a week before December 25th can qualify to be nominated mainly in all categories.

“Roma” aims to make history by becoming the first movie entirely spoken in Spanish to be nominated for Best Picture. Alfonso Cuarón will not only be nominated for Best Director, but he is also the front-runner to win the Oscar. Also, he will be nominated for Best Cinematography and Original Screenplay.

The other Foreign Language Films nominated for Best Picture in history were:

1939 – “Grand Illusion” – France – French
1969 – “Z” – France, Algeria – French
1972 – “The Emigrants” – Sweden – Swedish
1973 – “Cries and Whispers” – Sweden – Swedish
1995 – “The Postman/Il Postino” – Italy – Italian, Spanish
1998 – “Life is Beautiful” – Italy – Italian
2000 – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – Taiwan – Mandarin
2006 – “Letters from Iwo Jima” – USA – Japanese
2006 – “Babel” – USA, Mexico, France – Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, English.
2012 – “Amour” – Austria – French.
Festival in LA ©2018


  1. My favorite movie of all time... Long live “Roma”
    ..... Mario Váldez Juárez

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