Alfonso Cuarón looks tired.
He had gone to party until three in the morning, and the record three Oscars for "Roma" was dispelled. He would like a glass of water, and maybe a little orange juice. Cuarón has recently risen to don a slightly crumpled tuxedo for a photo shoot in his Chateau Marmont suite. The goal is to commemorate the unlikely journey of his film on the Oscars.
Cuarón is no stranger to Oscar Gold, after winning the editing and directing statuettes for his 2013 "Gravity" space epic, but this victory is more personal. "Roma" was inspired by his growing experiences in Mexico City. The black and white story helped him understand his parents' divorce and pay tribute to his nanny, Liboria "Libo" Rodríguez, who helped her keep her family life torn apart.
"I wanted to explore some family wounds," Cuarón says, cutting a piece of toast to the lawyer.
In addressing a painful period of his childhood, the filmmaker also wrote the story. He became the first director to win an Oscar for cinematography. He led Mexico to his first Academy Award in foreign languages. And he introduced Netflix, the streaming service that distributed the film, at the heart of the trophy race, giving the digital player his first significant taste of Oscar glory with his victory for the realization of "Roma".
The impact that the success of the film could have on a rising generation of directors is more important than the recordings.
"The young Mexican directors have Alfonso as a reference," says Diego Luna, star of Cuarón's 2001 film "Y Tu Mamá También". "You can tell your story, the one that matters to you, its there is an audience for it. "
Turning his camera on Cleo, a domestic film inspired by Rodríguez, Cuarón highlighted the experience of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. He illustrated how divisions in wealth and position can foster prejudice. "Roma" is in the 1970s, but its history resonates with our political era.
"They tell us all the time that we are different," said Guillermo del Toro, Oscar-winning director of "The Shape of Water" in 2017 and friend of Cuarón. "They tell us that we should not sympathize with gender, politics or religion." He congratulates Cuarón for using "Roma" to enlighten "people who live an invisible life to a certain class".
For his part, Cuarón hopes that Hollywood will become more inclusive both in the stories it will show on screen and in the distribution models that it will display. Through barely suppressed yawning, Cuarón, exhausted, thinks about working with Netflix and how art can react to trumpism.
Does winning your Oscars for "Roma" seem different from your previous winnings for "Gravity"?
It was totally different. Last time we received several Oscars for a studio movie with big stars and excellent visual effects. On paper, "Roma" is not a bait for Oscar. It's a very specific movie. It's black and white and Spanish. It's a drama. And it was significant that the Academy recognizes a film centered on a character who is a housekeeper of indigenous origin.
Why is "Roma" not a movie to "Oscar Bait"?
Oscar Bait is usually an "important" story that contains great speeches and big stars. There is always a great moment of emotion at the end, with some tears. This is no longer deleted. This requires greater public participation. Oscar Bait is not a black and white film in Spanish and Mixteco. He does not have unknown actresses.
Were you worried that the film was too rooted in your growing personal experience in Mexico to be translated to a wider audience?
I did not worry. It was a movie I had to do. I did not know if a lot of people were going to see him or if he was going to live a lot of time, but I had to do it.
When you accepted your Oscar for the staging, you said that "Roma" is a story of people relegated to the background by Hollywood. What did you mean?
In the best of cases, a domestic worker plays a supporting role or plays a supporting role in the films. They are always on the sidelines. They always work in relation to other characters. There is not really a deep look at this character. In "Roma", the camera is turned towards this domestic worker, this native character.
What artists do is to see what others do not do and express it. That's why artists are artists because they can see something extraordinary in our daily lives. It's looking at things we take for granted or ignore. When you look at a character like Cleo, you recognize the existence of that character. You realize we are not so different. We are similar. This opens the door to empathy and leads to understanding. It is said that cinema can be a machine to show empathy. It shows what may seem strange or different to us, and once you can overcome your prejudices, you realize that we are one and the same.
Does this act of empathy give your film a political resonance, given what is happening in this country? Politicians here often talk about dehumanizing immigrants.
I never wanted it to be a political film. I was making a movie about a specific character. The answer from "Roma" indicates that there are collective injuries that we share as human beings. This makes the film relevant to what is happening today. The film discusses the relationship between class and ethnicity. In Mexico, this leads to a conversation about racism. But this same conversation can be transported to the United States.
Because of Yalitza Aparicio [the Oscar-nominated actress who plays Cleo] and his intelligence, his civility, and his astonishing generosity, people embrace his character. By doing so, they embrace millions of people like her. This is happening at a time when these people have been vilified by Trump. In the end, the only foundations of the wall he is talking about are fear and hatred. Art can sometimes be an antidote to fear and hatred.
Do you hope that President Trump looks at "Roma"?
I do not know. He has subtitles. He should read them all![[[[gasps]His mind would be so tired after an hour. Maybe they should freeze things or have someone read it in full.
Netflix has distributed this film and spent millions campaigning for the Oscars. Did more traditional studios want to make this movie?
Even though they were supportive, some aspects – such as black and white, Spanish or unknown actresses – affected their vision of the film. When we spoke with Netflix, this kind of conversation did not happen. They were without fear. They were talking about the emotional story of the movie. This showed their appetite for the movie. They were willing to change their style to fit what we were looking for as filmmakers.
You mean that Netflix hosted you by agreeing to leave "Roma" in theaters?
It was essential, and now we have three months of theatrical release. Most movies are still not in the cinema after three months. Netflix's marketing efforts behind the film have certainly made more people aware.
Was Netflix always ready to give the film a sort of exclusive theatrical release?
It was a conversation. It was a company that had a specific model for a long time. So it was not just "OK, we do it like that". But they reacted to his performance. After [the Venice Film Festival, where “Roma” debuted]the conversation started to change. They understood that they could be more aggressive about certain things. They responded well when I said that I wanted to make a special version of 70 mm, for example.
Will the next generation of filmmakers be so passionate about cinema?
I think it will prevail. In the same way, there is greater openness to different formats because they grew up with them. But I think filmmakers will always love the theatrical experience.
Price observers very often think that "Roma" has lost the best image in favor of "Green Book" because people are afraid that Netflix will disrupt the sector. Do you think that there was a flashback?
At first, when I started this process, I felt it. Friends and other filmmakers have said, "What are you doing?" It was almost like I was betraying something. But I think the conversation has changed. I think most people recognize that this film reaches audiences around the world as usually only mainstream movies do.
For me, the conversation about the theater is very important. I am a filmmaker. I believe in the theatrical experience. But there must be diversity. The multiplex theatrical experience is a very mired experience. You have a product type with few variations. It's hard to see house art movies. It is difficult to see foreign films. Most theaters broadcast Hollywood movies.
So, if major studios are not interested in making adult dramas, how can we ensure that these films continue to be made?
The diffusion of our films must be more diversified. Distribution models need to be more flexible, depending on the movie. You can not impose the exit strategy of a "tentpole" type movie to a smaller movie. You may need fewer theaters and longer periods or models in which the so-called window is shorter. We think in one paradigm. It's time to start opening paradigms. At present, it is a confrontation between economic models. It's not as if one model is enjoying cinema, and the other is not.
|Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, Oscar winner, are getting married behind the scenes of the Oscars.|
Matt Sayles / © A.M.P.A.S.
These Oscars were the most inclusive of recent memory. A record number of people of color was honored and a record number of women winners. Does this reflect a broader trend?
I do not know. Mexican-American representation in films is still lacking.
Is the situation improving?
Everything comes back to the source material. Maybe there will be a superhero movie with a Chicano character, but that does not really go to the bottom of things. You have to make movies that talk about this experience.
Your movies such as "Roma", "Gravity" and "A Little Princess" often focus on female protagonists. Why are you attracted to strong female characters?
I never thought about it. There are not many in life?
Where will you keep your Oscars for "Roma"? Will you store them with your rewards for "Gravity"?
I'm moving, so everything is in boxes. Maybe for a few weeks, they will be in the same boxes as the others.
Marc Malkin contributed to this report.