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Cuaron’s Autobiographical Drama “Roma” Triumphs With Three Oscars

Alfonso Cuaron’s intimate family drama “Roma” triumphed at the Oscars on Sunday, winning for best foreign film, best director and best cinematography.

The win was also a major step forward for Netflix, which became the first streaming content provider to claim the best director prize from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, highlighting its increasing clout.

But it fell short at the finish, losing the top best picture prize to “Green Book.”

The semi-autobiographical black-and-white drama tells the story of an indigenous woman named Cleo — played by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio — who works as a housekeeper and nanny for a middle-class family in Mexico City’s Roma district during the 1970s.

The film, shot in a mixture of Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, had earned a total of 10 Oscar nominations, and is the crown jewel in Cuaron’s already illustrious award-winning career.

“This award belongs to Mexico,” Cuaron told reporters. “It’s a Mexican film on every single front.”

– First indigenous woman nominated –

For Cuaron, “Roma” was a deeply personal project that focused on the two women central to his life at the time: his mother Cristina, renamed Sofia in the film and played by Marina de Tavira, and the family’s live-in nanny, Libo, renamed Cleo and played by Aparicio.

The film follows Cleo as she cares for the family’s four children and manages the household while dealing with her own personal life.

Cuaron was so keen on faithfully recreating the atmosphere of the time that he managed to reclaim furniture from family for his set and was lucky enough to find a similar house in the Roma neighborhood that had been slated for demolition.

The 57-year-old director has said he has been overwhelmed by the widespread critical acclaim for the movie and was particularly proud “Roma” had spotlighted the lives of domestic workers.

“What is most significant is that this film, which has drawn huge media attention, has a main character who is a domestic employee and is indigenous,” the director told AFP earlier this month at a luncheon for the Oscars nominees in Beverly Hills.

“Yalitza is the first indigenous woman nominated for a best actress award in the history of the Oscars. And that, to me, is very important.”

Netflix has described the film as the director’s way of “delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him.”

– Smart gamble for Netflix –
“Roma” marks a turning point for Netflix, which last month joined the Motion Picture Association of America, the first time a non-Hollywood studio has been granted entry to the powerful lobbying group.

The film was a bit of a gamble for the company, given that it was a foreign-language period film shot in black and white with an unknown lead actress. But the risk was a smart one, and turned into a reward.

“Roma” also had a limited release in theaters, showing in more than any other Netflix film to date, but in far fewer than its competitors — another risk.

But the company mounted an aggressive — and expensive — awards season marketing campaign, hosting events, renting billboards in Los Angeles and even reportedly sending major swag to journalists.

And in the end, “Roma” proved to be an awards darling, capturing major awards at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Baftas, and the top prize from the Directors Guild of America.

It also won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival.

For Cuaron himself, it is his second Oscar-winning film.

In 2014, his science fiction thriller “Gravity” pulled in seven Oscars including one for best director, which at the time made him the first Hispanic and Mexican filmmaker to win the award.

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