21 Reasons Why You Simply Must Watch Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar-Winning ‘Roma’
“Roma” has taken the film world by storm. Most critics have already begun to include it in favorite film lists. Not just for this year but for ones that include works from the past 20 years as well. During a screening of the film at the 56th New York Film Festival, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro proclaimed it as one of his five favorite films of all time. Del Toro even made time to go to the Oscars, despite being sick, to hand Alfonso Cuarón his Oscar for Best Actor for “Roma.”
Here is some of what you can expect from the Oscar-winning film.
It fittingly deals with a taboo theme in Mexican society: race.
There are amazing human moments in the Netflix flick. The theme of race runs throughout “Roma.” Like many Latin American countries, Mexico is a country that’s highly defined by race. In colonial times, the country was ruled by the caste system and today Mexican society continues to operate under similar conditions.
It deals with a dark and overlooked period in Mexican history.
The period that “Roma” portrays is a tense calm. Three years after the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre and after the Olympic Games (which happened just a few weeks after the massacre), Mexico seemed to be in a historical juncture in which progress was possible. The ‘68 events had happened, and the government had swept it under the rug. There was a new president, who was one of the politicians responsible for the massacre. The presidency went from Gustavo Díaz Ordaz to Luis Echeverría, who was infamous for state repression. In the middle of the Cold War, there was a single-party system in Mexico that Nobel Prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist, called the “perfect dictatorship”. It was covered with democratic paint but at its core, it was a repressive state, not only in the city with student movements but also in rural areas.
Yalitzia Aparicio’s breathtaking performance has been on everyone’s mind since the film was released.
Move over Merryl Streep. Yalitzia Aparicio is totally amazing in her first role, and the award season, while disappointing at the Oscars, was so kind to her.
Libo, Cuarón’s former nanny who is in her 90’s, is one of Cuarón’s biggest inspirations.
The director wrote the script to honor Libo, an amazing tiny yet strong woman who held his family together in times of confusion and chaos. This picture is just too much.
It acknowledged the crucial role of domestic workers in family dynamics, especially in affluent communities.
Mexico City’s society functions because of domestic workers, who often take the role of main caregivers for children. This is shown in “Roma” in a candid, loving way.
It includes dialogue in indigenous languages, which is major right now.
Contrary to movies who are only spoken in Spanish or English, “Roma” stays true to its characters by having dialogue in Mixtec, the language spoken in some regions of Oaxaca.
It is a poignant look at the strength of Mexican mothers.
Any Latino knows that women are the cornerstone of families. Cuarón shows how crucial the role of mothers and abuelitas is in the household, and how they face tribulations with strength and wisdom.
It is a one-man-show and Cuarón got a lot of recognition at the 91st Academy Awards.
It is rare to watch a movie in which the director takes on many roles. Cuarón wrote, produced, shot, directed and edited this one and it is a real clavado en su mente.
It celebrates our similarities, rather than our differences, as human beings and shows the power of humanity.
On paper, there are few similarities between the wealthy and the struggling characters, but they share what matters the most: their basic humanity.
Cuarón has captured the true essence of Mexico City.
If anyone grew up or has visited Mexico City will recognize the sights, sounds and even indications of smells that populate this modern day masterpiece. From the tamale carts to the knife sharpener it is just amazing.
It offers some of the most stunning images in recent cinema and that’s why it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
Cuarón delves not only into his own personal memory as a very privileged Mexican but also into cinematic memory. There are winks to Italian neo-realism. There’s a very fond and amazing wink to Federico Fellini’s “8 ½(Otto o mezzo).” There’s a fantastic scene which deals with politics and state repression that is obviously an echo of The Battle of Algiers, a movie that Cuarón himself referenced in his other great work “Children of Men.”
It is ethnically diverse, showing what real Mexico looks like when you widen the lens of representation.
Most Mexican films that travel to world festivals or make it big in the box office only show white Mexicans that look like models. Not “Roma.” It is an ethnically diverse movie representing the country it depicts.
It features wrestler Latin Lover.
There are plenty of pop culture references to 1970s Mexico, but also an appearance by the popular wrestler Latin Lover. Lucha libre fans will love this.
It demonstrates how awful Western standards of beauty truly are for so many people.
Aparicio is beautiful and the director shot her features in a way that prove this. It’s a reminder of how inaccurate beauty standards are, how non-inclusive the Western gaze can be. The fact that Aparicio has been ridiculed in social media because she is indigenous proves just how severe this problem continues to be.
It criticizes policies that lead to extreme poverty in underprivleged communities.
People came from the countryside because the promises of the Mexican Revolution were not fulfilled for indigenous and rural populations. They all went to the city and these cinturones de miseria (belts of misery) were created around Mexico City. So, this movie is about that as well along with the historical memory of early 1970s Mexico.
It is the most chilango movie made, like, ever.
What makes this film special is that Alfonso Cuarón took a deep dive into his own personal memory as a chilango– a white, middle-class Mexican from Mexico City, which is quite important because racial politics are extremely important in this film and the country as a whole.
Marriage is complicated and sometimes beyond any logic.
At the center of Roma’s story is a marital breakup. It is a simple, yet complicated situation that the director presents in a direct, non-melodramatic way. We very seldom see this approach in Mexican cinema, which is so influenced by telenovelas.
That ocean scene no manches, wow!
We don’t want to spoil the movie but there is a crucial scene that happens among the waves and it is just breathtakingly gorgeous. So tense, so amazing. A moment that will live forever in film history.
Men are inconsequential in the film and it is so refreshing to see women at the center of the story.
The movie is about women, and contrary to most mainstream stories men are just secondary characters. Hollywood should learn from this.
It offers some truly surreal moments.
Andre Breton, the father of the Surrealist Movement, once said that Mexico is surreal by nature. This is captured by this film, which offers some weird moments like this one, were a group of white Mexicans shoot guns in the woods just for fun.
All you need is love.
Love is the force that is ever so present in “Roma.” The film shows us that any obstacle can be belittled if we offer each other help and comfort.
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