Telluride 45: “Roma” and Tribute to Alfonso Cuarón

One of the 3 Tributes at the Telluride was to Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, who received the Oscar for Best Director for “Gravity” (2013). Cuarón’s latest film “Roma” which recently was chosen Best Film of the Year by both the NY and LA Film Critics was screened. The film is showing on Netflix.

Cuarón said he grew to “understanding the technical aspect” of filmmaking, and with this “familiarity” knew what to ask. He described himself as “broke” before his first film “Sólo con Tu Pareja” (1991) was shown at Toronto. This showing led to a film development project with Sydney Pollack that was cancelled. Cuarón then directed “The Little Princess” (1995) in Hollywood which received 2 Oscar nominations.

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Alfonso Cuarón at Telluride

He described his next film, a modern-day “Great Expectations” (1998) as “What I should not do”. He added, “I forgot I was a writer”. He did not participate in the screenplay. He said “I lost 3 years … (of) creative life… very sad.” Cuarón’s next film “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001), which he co-wrote was a Mexican road film and an international success, leading to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) and “Children of Men” (2006).

For “Gravity”, Cuarón said “All credit goes to Sandra (Bullock) and George (Clooney)”. He said that the stunts and needed movement of the actors were “gruesome and very difficult”. He said he was “used to improvise” and “had to find the flow” for “Gravity” to “made it easy” for the actors posed “in the weirdest position” for a film set in outer space.

For “Roma”, based on his life growing up and cared for by an indigenous maid. He wanted to film “where events took place”, using “furniture from home and relatives” for the film to look as real as possible. He said that the maid “loved me” and was taken for granted.

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Yalitza Aparicio (left) in “Roma”

For the first time, he considered the complexities of her situation during a time “ridden by class”. He added she “raised me” adding “more present, some think than my biological mother”.

Cuarón said in making the film, the last thing he wanted to do was consider the sexual life of his mother.

“Roma” is masterfully directed with vivid black and white images. The cinematography is by Cuarón. The title comes from the area of Mexico City where the central family lives.

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“Roma”


Cuarón gives his film an immersive view of life in Mexico City in the early 1970s. The film has a strong use of details like a too-large car regularly scraping the walls of the garage where the floor has pieces of dog excrement.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the maid lives with her employer family, taking care of the children with whom she has a warm relationship. She participates in family activities like watching TV together. After the marriage between the parents break up, the father moves away and the mother (Marina de Tavira) depends even more on Cleo.

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Marina de Tavira and Yalitza Aparicio at Telluride

The film has many visually striking sequences. A memorable scene includes a panoramic shot of a crowded city street when the family goes to a movie. Later, while Cleo is shopping, a large-scale protest turns violent.

“Roma” becomes an absorbing autobiographical view of Cuarón’s extended family and Cleo’s devotion.

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