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Everything You Should Know About ‘Roma’ Director Alfonso Cuarón Before the Oscars

7:55 AM PST on February 22, 2019

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]s Oscar Sunday approaches, Alfonso Cuarón will be walking into uncharted territory.

He’s already won two Oscars, and now the director has the opportunity to win the most single statuettes in a year for one film than anyone before him, for his acclaimed film Roma. Five of the ten Roma nominations in the 2019 Academy Awards have his name attached, highlighting just how deeply intertwined Cuarón is with his most personal film to date.

Is it likely that Cuarón will have a clean sweep? Probably not. But the fact that he’s reached this point is already an incredible accomplishment. In 1954, Walt Disney won four out of the six Oscars races for which he was nominated, but even those nominations were all for different films that he produced.

All photos courtesy of Alfonso Cuarón/IG.
All photos courtesy of Alfonso Cuaron.

In the age of the #OscarsSoWhite backlash from recent years, it speaks volumes that a Mexican filmmaker is being recognized for his work, especially one so representative of people who have historically been marginalized in both countries – brown domestic workers.

The film’s focus on the life of an indigenous Mexican woman also highlights the class strata south of the border. Underscoring the powerful message of the film were the controversies surrounding discrimination against indigenous people in the aftermath of the film's success: the denial of a travel visa for one of the film’s central actors, and the backlash in Mexico after lead Yalitza Aparicio became the first indigenous woman from the Americas nominated for an Oscar.

Cuarón’s talents are now cemented in legend. Many directors work for studios as hired guns. Some write and direct. But very rarely are directors doing as much as Cuarón does in one film: writing, directing, and shooting it himself. With Roma, Cuarón proves, that he is still hungry, and that after all of these years, he still has the love for the craft of making films.

Cuarón’s career has had an up-and-down trajectory. His stellar debut feature was Solo Con Tu Pareja released in 1991. After the success of that film, he moved to the States to become a director for hire, starting with A Little Princess (1995) and Great Expectations (1998). Both failed at the box office and received little critical acclaim.

RELATED: ‘Roma’ Actor From Mexico Gets Visa to Attend Oscars Ceremony After All

In wasn’t until 2001, when he decided to go back to his Mexican roots, that he found success again. Written with his brother Carlos, Y Tu Mamá También earned Cuarón his first Oscar nomination. After his renewed success, the offers came for him to again become a director for hire on larger studio projects.

This time around was much more successful. Cuarón’s next project was Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004), to which Cuarón brought new life and energy. Many critics and fans alike point to Cuarón’s installment as the best film in the eight-film franchise.

With a more proven track record under his belt Cuarón was able to have more creative input in his next film. In 2006 he directed, co-wrote, and edited Children Of Men. The film was praised by critics and was on many top ten films of the decade lists. Cuarón was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay – for adapting P.D. James's 1992 novel – and Best Editing.

For the next seven years, he focused on producing. He produced films for his brother Carlos as well as his Mexican directing compatriots, such as  Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. In 2006, he produced the Del Toro-directed Pan’s Labyrinth and in 2010, he produced Inarritu’s Biutiful. Now all three filmmakers – all from Mexico – have won the coveted Oscar for Best Director.

RELATED: Review: 'Roma' Immortalizes the Strength of Domestic Workers

Cuarón won his directing Oscar on March 2, 2014, marking a point in Academy Award history when he became the first Mexican director to win for his epic space thriller, Gravity. Prior to him winning, only three Latin or Latin American directors – only one Mexican director – were ever nominated for the award.

That historic night, Gravity was awarded seven Oscars out of its ten nominations, and it seemed to be the pinnacle of an illustrious career – heights no one could hope to reach even once, let alone twice.

Then in 2018, Cuarón directed Roma. It tells the story of an indigenous woman working for an affluent family in Roma, a district of Mexico City, in the early 1970s.

Sunday, Cuarón has an opportunity to return to that mountain top. Roma has a chance at winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Foreign Language Film.

Not since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a foreign language film been nominated for as many Oscars. And Roma is only the fifth foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture. None have won the big prize yet.

RELATED: Exclusive: A First Look at ‘In Times of Rain’, A Mixtec Film by Indigenous Filmmakers Captures Audiences in Oaxaca

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