The Oscar nominated actor Demian Bichir has written graceful guest columns for Deadline on the #Oscarssowhite controversy and the cruel forced separation of refugee children by the Trump Administration. Bichir became a top star in Mexico and established himself in Hollywood with a milestone Oscar-nominated performance in A Better Life that led him to become the first Mexican since Anthony Quinn to be Oscar nominated for Best Actor. Roma brought back a lot of memories for him, from the volatile period to the location of Mexico City. Here he describes why Alfonso Cuaron’s Best Picture nominee is so special to him.
The power of cinema to transform lives is unquestionable. It modifies the senses and it slaps you brutally in the face when you recognize yourself in it.
Alfonso Cuarón took a dive into his most profound inner self perhaps to expiate his own demons, without thinking of any other consequences that may be caused by his Roma. I don’t think Alfonso’s goal was to inject new life into a highly predictable Hollywood, filled with remakes and lacking in original stories, but he did. I doubt he intended to hypnotize audiences accustomed to vertiginous action films with such cadence, but he did. I don’t believe Cuarón’s intentions were to have us Mexicans confronted with our own classist and racist consciousness, but he did. And in doing so, he also made the world stand face to face with its own values and past memories through this giant mirror that México is.
Roma is not a film about a Mexican family. It’s a film about love, the loss of innocence and especially about the power that women have to transform the world. It’s a film about the triumph of the spirit of the minorities who achieve so much with so little. I don’t know any other director who can dominate practically every genre navigating comfortably on any type of budget like Cuarón has done for decades. And now he gives us this poetic, hypnotic and devastating Roma.
But he also gives us a wonderful discovery, Yalitza Aparicio. Her portrayal of Cleo takes our breath away with power and grace, touching us deeply. Brava!
I, too, remember my childhood in black and white. I am of the same generation as the songs we hear in Roma, I remember so neatly the same familiar sounds of the knife sharpener, the sweet potato cart and the war band. I, too, belong to that same generation of torn hearts from 1968 and 1971.
Roma travels through Mexican territory and crosses over into the movie epicenter of a country that refuses to acknowledge the value of millions of immigrants. With the face of the indigenous México, the face of the immigrant México, Alfonso touches and challenges an industry fed by stereotypes and clichés, with a film spoken in Spanish and Mixteco, making an unprecedented statement, changing history forever. Adopting water as a purifying element, and as a symbol of life and death, he tears down the walls of hatred and makes the building of a new wall seem like an insult to humanity now more than ever.
This film is a love manifesto. It’s a political manifesto. A human manifesto.
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