Seattle supporters of Latino films excited by Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar win

Alfonso Cuarón directs “Roma” behind the scenes. (Photo by Carlos Somonte — Netflix.)

Mexico-born director and cinematographer, Alfonso Cuarón, won the Academy Award for Best Director last week — continuing a string of recent mainstream success for Mexican directors.

The score in the last six years for this category has been decidedly on Mexico’s side.

Cuarón’s win for his film “Roma” makes it the fifth Oscar win in this category for Mexican directors in the last six years. “Roma,” also won Best Foreign-Language Film. The film tells the story of an indigenous live-in domestic worker, played by Best Actress-nominee Yalitzia Aparicio, set in 1970s Mexico City.

Cuarón won in 2013 for “Gravity,” Alejandro González Iñárritu two years in a row for “Birdman,” and “The Revenant.”  While the streak broke in 2017 with Damien Chazelle’s win for “La La Land,” Guillermo Del Toro revived it last year with “The Shape of Water.”

Paloma Borreguero, the Seattle Latino Film Festival’s educational outreach director, sees the U.S. film industry’s recognition of Mexican directors as a significant message for the general public.

“It is very important, Latinos [have] broken through a barrier,” Borreguero said. “The country is seeing the community for what it is, not just immigrants that are here to take jobs.”

While the Academy Awards has recently been recognizing the accomplishments of Mexican filmmakers, even for a moment, the Seattle Latino Film Festival has done so since 2009.

Borreguero said the festival’s aim is to bring Latino films to the general filmgoing public in Seattle.

“[A] goal is to educate the non-Latinos of Seattle,” Borreguero said. “We’re happy that Latinos go to the Seattle festival, [But] it’s important to bring how film is done in other countries.”

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf as Pepe, Fernando Gradiaga as Señor Antonio, and Marina De Tavira as Señora Sofia in “Roma,” written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. (Photo by Carlos Somonte — Netflix.)

Last year, the Seattle Latino Film Festival brought films and their filmmakers to Seattle from across 21 different countries — including the United States. The festival has opened submissions for the 2019 festival. The deadline is July 10. The 2019 festival will be Oct. 4- 12.

Despite the success of Mexican directors in recent years, Borreguero said that the film industry is still hesitant to take a critical look at diversity and racial issues.

Best Picture went to “Green Book,” a film that touches on race, but has been met with criticism over its story and faithfulness to history. It also faced criticism for putting the emphasis on the story of a white chauffeur, played by Best Actor nominee Viggo Mortensen, over the perspective of the black musician, played by Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali, that he was driving.

For Best Picture, “Green Book” beat out Cuarón’s “Roma,” which tied “The Favourite” for the most Academy Award nominations this year. Along with those films, the eight Best Picture nominees also included “Black Panther” and Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”

Borreguero said that it didn’t surprise her that the Academy gave the top award to a movie that many critics found to have a simplistic view on race relations.

“It looks on films [that] want to touch difficult subject, but not too difficult.” Borreguero said. “It’s very unfortunate. How typical of the Academy not to be very critical.”

Nevertheless, Borreguero is optimistic about the future for filmmakers of color.

“Minority groups are definitely breaking through — it didn’t happen before,” Borreguero said. “I’m very hopeful.”

Corrections: An earlier version of this article misspelled Damien Chazelle’s name and incorrectly stated the year that Cuarón won the Academy Award for Best Director for “Gravity.” These details are now correct.

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