Mexico’s cinematic talents have taken over this year’s awards season thanks to the high-profile visibility of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, his personal drama that continues to scoop up trophies wherever it’s nominated.
Dazzled by the glitz and glamour that comes with the territory, most awards beat journalists have overlooked another major achievement for the Mexican film industry. For the first time ever, a Mexican animated film, Ana y Bruno, was submitted to the Academy for consideration in the Best Animated Feature category.
Carlos Carrera’s Ana y Bruno was entered alongside major players such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Incredibles 2 to vie for the coveted Oscar statuette. Carrera is the filmmaker behind El crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro), which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003. Prior to finding success in controversial live-action dramas, the director had spent many years creating animated shorts that premiered at renowned festivals including Cannes and Sundance. His transition into the animated feature arena was only natural.
A passion project for Carrera, Ana y Bruno was a lesson in fortitude for the artist, who spent 10 years fighting to finish it and get it seen. In multiple interviews with Mexican press after the film’s theatrical release last year, he has explained that finding resources to make an animated movie that’s not ruled by formulaic expectations was a task of monumental proportions in Mexico. It also has the distinction of being the most expensive animated Mexican production to date with a budget of $5.2 million.
Though rated as suitable for children of all ages, Carrera’s adventure is set in the 1940s and touches on mental health issues as it follows Ana, a young girl who befriends a pack of imaginary creatures elicited from the minds of patients at a psychiatric hospital. Ana’s mother who suffers from depression is one of them. Of those intangible friends, Bruno, a big-eared, green goblin-like entity, is Ana’s biggest ally in her search for her father. She must find him before a terrible procedure is practiced on her mother.
Curiously, this dark fantasy has a connection to Cuarón’s Oscar-bound Roma: Marina de Tavira, who plays Sofia in the acclaimed black-and-white masterpiece, is also the voice of Ana’s ill mother. Ana y Bruno opened to great reviews in Mexico when it debuted across 1,000 screens in September, and it’s now available in the US via Pantaya, the streaming service exclusively featuring Latinx content.