Alfonso Cuaron returned to the Lido today with Roma, a highly personal black-and-white drama that’s based on recollections from his childhood. The Mexican epic largely centers on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), an indigenous maid working for a middle class family in the 1970s. She, Cuaron said, “started from my memory” as he looked at growing up from a different point of view. Another difference this time around for the Oscar winning Gravity director is the distribution model.
Netflix is giving its awards season features a qualifying theatrical run and Roma will be seen “in many places on the big screen,” Cuaron confirmed. But, he added, “One shouldn’t judge when we know about the complexity or reality of film distribution. We know full well that a Spanish-language drama — indigenous, black and white and not a genre movie — we know this sort of film would have a great deal of difficulty to find space to be shown. I won’t say success, but space. That’s why it’s important to have Netflix… The important thing is that the film has a sort of impact and not to be lost over time. We have to be aware of the fact that this film exists and therefore I’m very grateful for Netflix because they have allowed me to work in this way.”
He continued, “We’re going to live with this format. It’s important the two things exist not clash. It’s just a question of finding something that works.”
Participant Media’s David Linde also spoke on the issue during the movie’s Venice Film Festival press conference today. “It’s somewhat naive to believe in this day and age that audiences don’t want to be able to see a movie on terms they determine most appropriate for themselves,” he said.
Turning back to Roma itself, Cuaron characterized the experience as an “encounter of the present and a recalled past.” He noted that growing up, “it was the women who governed the house. I simply considered my babysitter as being my mother somehow. It was surprising to discover this character as a woman.”
Cuaron also praised his cast of actresses. “This film sees all these women as protagonists. It has been made by all these women and the result is thanks to them.”
Making it in black and white was “part of the DNA,” because it’s a memory — and so authentic it even uses actual furniture from the filmmaker’s childhood.
But he wasn’t going for nostalgia either. “I wanted it to be contemporary black and white and not to work with long shadows like in the 40s and 50s. I wanted digital black and white which is very advanced.”
He shoots the film with long panning takes that he explained were associated with the fact that the film talks from memory. “Memories are objective because they’re abstract. I was interested to observe those moments at a distance without a judging eye, not allowing the camera to interfere with the moment. The camera respects the notion of time.” Cuaron wrote, directed and produced Roma — and was also DP here rather than regular collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki due to scheduling conflicts.
Netflix is expected to release Roma theatrically during awards season.