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Roma Alfonso Cuaron: how Mexico produced the worlds best directors – British GQ

This year’s Oscars marks another crazy success for Mexico’s ‘three amigos’: Roma won best foreign film (but lost out to Green Book over all) and in the last 6 years, five of the Best Director Oscars have gone to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo Del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron. It’s time to start considering the 2010s as the second golden age of Mexican cinema and, with Roma, a return to them making films about their country of origin.

Mexican cinema had its first golden age back in 1935-1955, and since then cinema has always had a major role to play in the country’s cultural landscape. “National cinema has always been significant in Mexico and has been particularly important in generating a sense of collective identity from the off,” explained Dr Jessica Wax Edwards, an independent scholar with a speciality in Mexican cinema.

“Following this, and alongside political change and State repression (which is actually alluded to in Roma during the violent protests outside the furniture shop), there was a period of more politically engaged and also experimental cinema in the 70s,” explained Wax Edwards. “Arguably a bit of a lull in the 80s and then in 90s national filmmaking started to gain some more momentum.”

Mexican cinema rose to international prominence with 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and co-written with his brother. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The other big film, according to Wax Edwards, was Gonzalez Inarritu’s Amores Perros: both starred Gael Garcia Bernal, and Cuaron’s movie also starred Diego Luna. Both actors, now internationally known names, are regular fixtures of the three friend’s films.

Inarritu has long been the poster child of Mexican cinema: a commercial and TV director for many years, and someone has played a role in both del Toro and Cuaron’s careers progressing. He’s also the only one of the three take back Best Director two years in a row.

All three directors have since left Mexico: Cuaron has lived in London since 2000, Inarritu in Los Angeles ever since the release of Amores Perros. del Toro also left for America in slightly less pleasant circumstances: he moved him and his family out of Mexico in 1993 after his father was kidnapped and held ransom for $1m during the production of his vampire film Cronos. They have served us some of the most interesting movies of the 21st century: Inarritu made 21 Grams in 2003, which earned best actress and best supporting actor nominations at the Oscars. In 2006, Cuaron gave us the incredible Children of Men in what was also an amazing year for Inarritu and Del Toro with their movies Babel – which was nominated for six awards at the Oscars including best director and best picture – and Del Toro’s seminal fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, which established him as an expert in genre cinema and was nominated for six oscars, winning three.

Since then, the three have provided Oscar winner after Oscar winner: in 2014 Cuaron cleaned up for Gravity, and in 2015 Inarritu took home best picture and best director for Birdman. In 2016 Inarritu won Best Director again for The Revenant, and in 2018 Del Toro won for The Shape Of Water.

It’s also worth noting that they are not the only Mexican talent who have received Academy nods: Dr Wax Edwards flagged Emmanuel Lubezki, who won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant. He attended the same film school in Mexico as Cuaron. Designer Eugenio Caballero won an Oscar for Pan’s Labyrinth. Rodrigo Prieto has also been nominated multiple times for Best Cinematographer, including for his work on Scorsese’s Silence and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

If the rise of transnational Mexican directors has got you interested in knowing more about the cinema of Mexico, there are some key places to start looking: one would be the early films of these directors, and another would be to look back at the key pieces from Mexico’s Golden Age like the Mexican revolution classic ¡Vamonos con Pancho Villa! and Aventurera, a masterpiece of the dance-centric Mexican genre of cinema called ‘rumberas’. For those with a taste for art house, Mexico and Latin America have been turning out hits in the circuit for decades. Washington University’s Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado recommended the works of Carlos Reygadas, Michel Franco and Gerardo Naranjo. Dr Wax Edwards recommends the directors Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, Michel Franco and more recently Lila Avilés. There’s also a rise in documentary makers, much of whom are women, including Natalia Almada, Maya Goded, Tatiana Huezo.

If you were interested in seeing more Mexican cinema, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. Following the success of Roma, Netflix– who have already had a large presence in Latin America- have announced plans to expand rapidly in the area. They plan to produce 50 new shows and cinema out of a newMexico City office over two years.

“To give you a sense of the scale and scope of this, we announced a few months ago that in the same kind of time frame we will have 30 original shows in India, so Mexico is our most in any one territory,” said Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter.

While it’s hard to know exactly what this will mean, there’s general excitement for what this could mean. “It allows for the creation of Mexican content that does not have to be subject to state subsidy or to truly unfavorably market conditions,” explained Sanchez Prado, “I generally think it is excellent news.” Dr Wax Edwards suggested that “the expansion of an independent producer and distributor like Netflix could provide a platform for more acerbically critical and politically engaged cinema within and outside of Mexico.”

Read more:

Black Panther doesn’t need an Oscar – it’s the other way around

The Oscar buzz for Bohemian Rhapsody proves that 2019 is Rami Malek’s year

A hostless Oscars is a chance for the awards ceremony to reinvent itself

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