At the Oscars, Alfonso Cuarón Says Representation for US-Born Latinos Is Still Dismal

Alfonso Cuaron attends 91st Annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In a historic night for Mexican cinema, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday. It’s the first win for Mexico after nine nominations that go back to 1960. When asked about the award, the director wholeheartedly reiterated how instrumental his bond with his homeland was in the creation of this cinematic phenomenon. “This award belongs to Mexico,” he said during a press conference backstage. “This film doesn’t exist if it’s not for Mexico. I put it bluntly, I could not be here if it was not because of Mexico.”

Cuarón also became the first Director of Photography in the history of the Academy Awards to win Best Cinematography for a movie he also directed, a trophy neither one of his Oscar-winning buds Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu have.

Backstage, Remezcla asked Cuarón his thoughts on the lack of representation for US-born Latinos who don’t have the same access to government funds like their counterparts in Latin America. “This is an interesting question, because there is so much talk about diversity, and I mean some progress has been made, but definitely the Hispanic Americans – and specifically Chicanos – are really, really badly represented still. It’s amazing, you know? It’s a huge percentage of the population,” said the director.

On the subject of representation, he noted that the most gratifying outcome from Roma’s mainstream takeover were the conversations it sparked around rights for domestic workers and racism in Mexico. He praised Yalitza for having “understood the symbolic force of this moment,” and representing indigenous people with “intelligence, respect, and dignity.”

When asked why he thought Roma has moved people so profoundly, he once again gave credit to Aparicio and de Tavira’s performances. He said that people around the world, Academy voters included, “learned to see these characters, to look not at their prejudice but to look at them directly, and emotionally they felt an immense connection.”

Regarding the impact Roma’s success will have on the Mexican film industry and all the talented Mexican artists for whom an Oscar still seems like an unattainable dream, Cuarón explained that, “Any award to any country is beneficial in terms of the perception of the film industry,” because it gives it credibility. “In a way it opens the doors for the appreciation of cinema in our language in general, and Mexican cinema in particular. That’s really important,” noted Cuarón. “I’m so happy that people are celebrating Roma in this way, but this year and in previous years there have been movies as important or even more so than Roma that haven’t found their place. Hopefully, Roma helps open some of those doors.”

Some of Alfonso Cuarón’s comments during the press conference were given in Spanish and have been translated to English by the author for Remezcla.