El Espace is a column dedicated to news and culture relevant to Latinx communities. Expect politics, arts, analysis, personal essays and more. ¿Lo mejor? It’ll be in Spanish and English, so you can forward it to your tía, your primo Lalo or anyone else (read: everyone).
When Alfonso Cuarón took home the Oscar for best director on Sunday, he continued an almost uninterrupted winning streak by Mexican directors. Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Cuarón, together known as “The Three Amigos” in Hollywood, have collected five director awards in the last six years, for “Gravity,” “Birdman,” “The Revenant,” “The Shape of Water” and now Cuarón’s “Roma,” which also won best foreign film. (In 2016, Damien Chazelle won for directing “La La Land.”)
“Roma,” based on Cuarón’s upbringing in Mexico City, broke ground by centering on an indigenous Mexican domestic worker, Cleo, played by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio. Since the film’s release, Aparicio, who was the first woman of indigenous descent to be nominated in the best actress category, has been featured prominently in magazines and news outlets here and in Mexico. Her character has also ignited a national conversation in Mexico about racial and class discrimination, and fueled advocacy around workers’ rights. Cuarón teamed up with local organizations to throw huge public viewings of the Oscars in Mexico City.
In a post-awards news conference, Cuarón said that of all the movies he’s directed, “Roma” is the one he least expected to win. The film was shot in black and white, and the dialogue is in both Spanish and a native Mixteco language, and lacks the “big speeches and big stars” that Cuarón said make for “Oscar bait.” “Gravity,” his 2013 film co-starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, was a more predictable Academy pick.
Deborah Shaw, who wrote “The Three Amigos: The Transnational Filmmaking of Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón,” noted that the “deeply rooted national vision” Cuarón displayed in “Roma” “would not have seen such international distribution had he not first made his name as a world-class director with the films he made outside of Mexico.”
In all of their acceptance speeches, these directors have referred to their Mexican or immigrant roots. Last year, del Toro said, “I think that the greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that, when the world tells us to make them deeper.” And, in accepting his award for “The Revenant,” Iñárritu said, “I’m very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately, many others haven’t had the same luck.” He expressed hope that skin color would “become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
Here are more stories to read this week.
? While we’re still talking about “Roma,” read this profile of Gabriela Rodriguez, one of the film’s producers.
? Carmen Maria Machado wrote about the creation of the “chola” aesthetic — thin eyebrows, slicked down baby hairs and acrylic nails — and its recent resurgence.
? Walter Thompson-Hernandez traveled to Japan to trace the spread of Chicano culture.
? A new study found that companies with a founder or owner who is not born in the United States score higher on innovation.
Do you have suggestions for El Espace? Let me know what you’d like to see here: [email protected].
Concepción de León is the digital staff writer covering literary news and culture for the Books Desk. Separately, she launched El Espace for the Styles section, a weekly column in which she writes about news and culture for a Latinx audience. She previously worked for Glamour magazine.
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