“I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, a character that historically has been relegated in the background in cinema,” said Alfonso Cuarón, who won Best Director and Best Cinematography for his semi-autobiographical film Roma, a deeply personal film about his childhood and beloved caregiver in Mexico City. “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.”
Roma had been nominated in a total of 10 categories and won three Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film. The win for the filmmaker is also a win for Netflix who qualified Roma for Oscar consideration with a three-week release in theaters before it was offered to audiences on its streaming platform.
Cuarón has followed the same path as he did for Gravity in 2014 — first winning Best Director for Roma from the DGA and then taking home Oscar. This year, he also pulled off a trifecta at BAFTA for Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography. Roma also won Best International Film at the independent Spirit Awards yesterday.
Roma had previously won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. As he has done on many occasions, the filmmaker twice in accepting his awards gave kudos to the two actresses that led his cast — both nominated this year — Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. And Cuarón had a unique way of shooting this film.
In fact, none of the cast or crew knew day to day what scene they were going to shoot. Cuarón shot the film in chronological order and no one was privy to the screenplay so their work unfolded as the pages were shared. Aparicio was not a formally trained actress. In fact, she was a schoolteacher with not one bit of acting experience.
He has said in the past that he was surprised how this film about his childhood growing up in Mexico City in the 1970s has resonated with so many people. He has said that he needed to do this film to understand who he was and where he came from. The film is actually dedicated to his real-life nanny Libo Rodríguez.
The black and white film was shot with an Alexa 65 and scenes were shot in continuity over 110 days-plus. One of the most memorable scenes involved an ocean shot where his crew had to build a pier and then wait for a tropical storm to pass to get the crane onto the pier. The result was a scene as deeply engaging and unpredictable as the sea itself. And he did it all in one take.
Because of the incredible work involved, it seems appropriate to note – on this night – the Roma filmmaking team: First AD René U. Villareal; Second AD María Dioni; and Second Second ADs Luis Fernando Vásquez, Julián ‘Chico’ Valdés.
Cuarón was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, making him the first filmmaker to be nominated in all three categories for the same film in the same year, but that award went to Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly for Green Book which also won Best Picture.
Cuarón went to film school in Mexico where he studied under a teacher named Jorge Ayala Blanco who taught film history and changed the perspective of the young and hopeful filmmaker. In his acceptance speech, he also thanked his beloved Mexico.