Shortly after scooping the Best Cinematography win for Roma, Alfonso Cuaron made history again as his black-and-white drama became the first entry from Mexico to score a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. He noted slyly, “I grew up watching foreign language movies and learning so much from them and being inspired like Citizen Kane, Jaws, Rashomon, The Godfather, Breathless…”
Both in Cuaron’s acceptance and in Javier Bardem’s presentation of the award, there was talk of inclusion and culture crossing borders. Cuaron related a story about French filmmaker Claude Chabrol having been asked to comment on the New Wave: “He said, ‘There are no waves, only oceans.’ The nominations tonight prove we are part of the same ocean.”
Bardem this evening presented the award to Cuaron in Spanish, saying, “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent. In any region of any country of any continent, there are always great stories that move us and tonight we celebrate the excellence and importance of the cultures and languages of different countries.”
Indeed, this was a rich year for films not in English with fellow FL nominees Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away crossing over into other major categories and as the Academy looks to become a more global enterprise. Also in the field of FL nominees were Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Shoplifters and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum. All five were culled from one of the strongest batches of submissions in recent years.
Cuaron’s deeply personal Roma was first thrust into the spotlight when it didn’t debut at Cannes, owing to an arcane windows system in France and regulations that saw Netflix balk at its titles premiering on the Riviera. It then debuted at the Venice Film Festival and took home the Golden Lion. Roma has since become one of the most talked about and lauded foreign language films in history, scoring prizes around the world while giving Netflix several seats at the Oscar table and, importantly, shining a spotlight on the plight of domestic workers in Mexico.