Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” is now on Netflix and movie critics and fans cannot get enough of the director’s newest cinematic feat. The film was shown in select theaters around the world and has been receiving resounding praise. It is being predicted that this film will single-handedly dominate the awards show season and it is clear to see why.
“Roma” took home two Golden Globes last night, including for Best Foreign Film.
The film tells the story of Cleo, a maid working for a middle-class family in Mexico City. The black-and-white Spanish-language movie with English subtitles is a pure masterpiece. Not just because it was directed by Cuarón, who’s previous films includes “Gravity,” “Children of Men,” and “Y Tu Mamá También,” but because of how it tells such an intimate story.
“Roma” is more poignant because of the central character, an indigenous woman, who struggles like most of us to make money, but more importantly is also with trying to find who she is outside of caring for this family.
The role of Cleo is largely based on Cuarón’s own maid who practically raised him.
Cuarón told Variety about his reasoning for wanting to make this film and make Cleo the main character.
“I think I wanted to understand, to put the pieces together,” he said. But also added that he realizes there’s a complex dynamic of a brown woman taking care of a white Mexican family. He wanted to capture that nuance behind an almost childlike lens, which is why he shot this movie in black and white digital.
“It was probably my own guilt about social dynamics, class dynamics, racial dynamics,” he told Variety. “I was a white, middle-class, Mexican kid living in this bubble. I didn’t have an awareness. I [had] what your parents tell you — that you have to be nice to people who are less privileged than you and all of that — but you’re in your childhood universe.”
The film first premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion Award.
This award is the highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival, so right off the bat, it came out swinging.
Since its premiere, “Roma” has already won a slew of awards.
Here’s just some…
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film
BIFA Award for Best Foreign Independent Film
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematographer
L.A. Film Critics Association Awards: ‘Roma’ Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography
Also, Best Film in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Chicago Film Critics Association and at the Philadelphia Film Critics Awards.
All roads clearly lead to the Oscars, right?
According to the award prediction site Gold Derby, “Roma,” as of now, is not predicted to win Best Picture. Right now it looks as if “A Star Is Born” will win Best Picture, but “Roma” is right behind it.
Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the movie biz is run by white folks. Yes, it sucks, but the good news is there are some truly kickass people of color out there paving the way for the rest of us.
It’s old news that Hollywood has a huge diversity problem (#Oscarsowhite, anybody?). Even beyond the Academy Awards, this year’s Cannes Film Festival left a LOT to be desired when it came to Latino representation.
But, thankfully, that is beginning to change and more and more directors claim their spot in the directors chair and we are so grateful for the representiaon they’re bringing younger audiences because representation matters.
Moreover, many Latin-American directors particularly are seeing success both with critics and at the box office with such movies as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant dominating the box office while also taking home numerous awards. Here are some of our favorite directors and a few lesser-known ones that you should add to your watch lists.
Adrian Molina has a breadth of experience under his belt, particularly in animation. He’s worked at Pixar Animation Studios on Toy Story 3 and in other capacities on Monsters University, Ratatouille and The Good Dinosaur. But it’s perhaps his work on Coco, which he co-wrote and co-directed, that e all know best.
Since Coco’s debut in theaters in Mexico, it has become the country’s highest-grossing movie in cinematic history. In the U.S., Coco, whose voice talent includes actors Gael Garcia Bernal, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt, has been a champion at the box office, coming in No. 1 three weekends in a row and garnering major Oscar buzz.
Born and raised in San Francisco to Mexican immigrant parents, director Aurora Guerrero graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Psychology and Chicano studies. She dabbled in shorts for several years before directing an episode of Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking series Queen Sugar, continuing DuVernay’s promise to have every episode directed by a woman of color.
Guerrero is gearing up to direct a feature she’s writing entitled Los Valientes about a gay, undocumented immigrant who finds his life turned upside down after traveling to a conservative Pennsylvania town.
Though the Mexican director Alfonso Arau started out as an actor (some of his acting credits include The Wild Bunch, Three Amigos, and Romancing the Stone), he eventually transitioned to directing.
Arau’s two most well-known works are 1992’s Like Water for Chocolate and 1995’s A Walk in the Clouds. The former was based on the novel written by Arau’s then-wife Laura Esquivel, became the highest-grossing non-English-language film ever released in the United States at the time, and even got nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Gloria Calderon Kellett
Perhaps one of her biggest credits is her work on One Day at a Time, which she created, wrote, executive produced, and even acted as co-show runner for the Netflix series.
Kellett grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, and San Diego, California, and earned her degree in Communications and Theater Arts from Marymount University. She’s not stepping into directing without some experience. She directed two shorts a few years ago, Mouthbreather and Blind, and an episode of the webseries Misery Loves Company in 2017. Earlier this year, Kellett announced she is developing a new TV show for CBS, History of Them.
Mexican-Guatemalan-American filmmaker Marvin Lemus got his start in digital production, working on viral videos and marketing campaigns, including those utilized in the film Dear White People. After dabbling in shorts Lemus transitioned to creating his first series. The result was a web series titled Gente-fied.
Along with his countrymen, Alfonso Cuarón has distinguished himself as one of the greatest directors of our time. Working in different genres, Cuarón has been both critically and commercially successful as well as becoming the first Latin American to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Cuarón’s directorial debut was 1991’s Solo con tu pareja, but his first success came with his second film – A Little Princess which was nominated for two Oscars. Y tu mamá también was a massive hit and got nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Cuarón followed these achievements with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which got two Oscar nominations and is still considered to be the best installment in the franchise. His latest films, Gravity and Roma, both received multiple award nominations winning seven and three Oscars respectively. For both films, Cuarón won the Best Director award just like Iñárritu did.
Guillermo del Toro
It’s no secret that Guillermo del Toro is close friends with the two other prominent Mexican directors working today (Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón) with the trio being collectively known as “The Three Amigos of Cinema”. And their acclaim and success stem from their immense talent and hard work.
Del Toro has directed big-budget movies like Blade II and Hellboy (for which he also directed a sequel later on) before directing critically-acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth which went on to be nominated for multiple awards. del Toro also directed Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, and the Academy Award-winning The Shape of Water.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Undoubtedly, Alejandro González Iñárritu is among the most successful directors working today – not just in his own country but internationally. Moreover, this worldwide success is probably tied to the fact that Iñárritu loves telling international stories and his films always have diverse casts.
Iñárritu’s directorial debut was 2000’s Amores perros which was the first installment in his Trilogy of Death and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The two films that followed were also a part of the trilogy: 21 Grams which was nominated for two Oscars and Babel which won the Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama, and got seven Oscar nominations.
But the most successful works of Iñárritu are definitely his two latest films: Birdman which won four Oscars and The Revenant which won three Oscars. In both cases, Iñárritu took home the Best Director award.
The more we dig, the more we are all learning of the Latinos who made the world what it is today. There are few places that have as many of these discoveries as entertainment. One often forgotten Latino trailblazer is José Cuauhtémoc “Bill” Meléndez who helped to create the most iconic cartoon special ever.
José Cuauhtémoc “Bill” Meléndez gifted us “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Meléndez worked closely with Charles Schulz to help create the animated Charlie Brown classics we all know and love today. Born in Mexico, Meléndez had a storied career in entertainment and made a name for himself in the animation world. Meléndez was part of four Walt Disney classics: “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Pinocchio,” and “Fantasia.”
Meléndez became Snoopy’s voice by accident.
Meléndez was not cast to voice Snoopy. He worked with Schulz to created the animated works of Charlie Brown while Schulz focused on the comic strips. The two worked with an understanding that one could not do what the other brought to the table.
In an interview in the Archive of American Television, Meléndez tells the story of how he became the voice of Snoopy. It was nothing more than luck and a fast approaching deadline that make him the voice of America’s most popular canine.
“Happy accident. When we first started animating Snoopy and I wen to Schulz and I said, ‘You know, he talks. He’s got these balloons,” Meléndez says in the interview. “I had a whimsical actor here in Hollywood who had a great voice and I said to everybody, ‘This guy’s voice would be perfect for Snoopy. He should talk for Snoopy.’ I made some recordings of him reading some of the lines of Snoopy and I took them up the Schulz and he says, ‘What’s this?’ I said, ‘A voice for Snoopy.’”
Schulz was originally against Snoopy talking because he is a dog.
“So I went home and I said, ‘Well. Arf. Arf.’ I started making noises to imitate something that maybe I could give to an actor to use for him. I came up with an idea,” Meléndez recalls in the interview. “There was a lot of dialogue that Snoopy was talking, like in the classroom. So I said, ‘Let’s record this.’ I had them record at one-quarter speed. So I start saying, ‘Well, Charlie Brown. You are wrong. The teacher says for you to it down and to drop that ball.’ Then I told the engineer to run that fast for me. he ran it fast until he finally ran it at one-quarter speed and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s our voice for Snoopy.’”
The rest, as Meléndez says, is history.
Just another example of that Latino excellence that has always been here.
The Charlie Brown classic movies are part of so many holiday traditions. Fortunately, after a brief scare, they are all available to watch this year on television. Apple+ currently owns the specials but has decided to allow PBS and PBS Kids to air the specials this year. You can watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas Special” on Apple+ from Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 11-13, respectively.
You can check out part of Meléndez’s interview below.