ROMA I Alfonso Cuarón takes a stroll down memory lane for this epic childhood tale…
Alfonso Cuarón on Netflix’s Mexican Oscar hopeful.
I’m not the same person after doing this film,” Alfonso Cuarón explains to Teasers. The visionary Mexican director behind Gravity and Children Of Men has taken on his most difficult subject yet for his new film Roma – his own childhood. “Look, it’s impossible to do an experiment of going back into your memories – and then re-live those memories in the place where those memories took place, with actors who are identical to those people, for almost a year – and come out the same person.”
A black-and-white autobiographical ode to Cuarón’s upbringing, Roma is set in Mexico City in 1971, notably at the time of the Corpus Christi massacre, when 120 people were killed by military forces during a student demonstration. But rather than recreate scenes through the eyes of his younger self, Cuarón filters events through Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the family’s live-in maid. “She is part of my family,” says Cuarón. “Her daughter is like my niece. Any family reunion is all of us together.”
Such was his desire to authentically recreate the past, Cuarón gathered together 70 per cent of the furniture from his childhood home – now spread out among family members across Mexico. During the lengthy 108-day shoot, during which Cuarón shot
chronologically, no crew member and actor had a copy of the script – to ensure that nobody had preconceived ideas before coming onto the project. Rules were also made, like no backand-forth dolly shots. “I love that movement – but that would turn it into a more subjective experience. And I didn’t want that subjectivity.”
Cuarón even had to shoot the film himself – on digital 65mm – after his Oscar-winning regular DoP Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki had to drop out. “It was definitely technically and creatively the most challenging film I’ve ever done,” Cuarón says, “in the sense that with Gravity and even Children Of Men – which has its own complexities – I have safety nets. Narrative safety nets and also genre safety nets. You know you can fall into excitement. In this one I didn’t have those safety nets. It was more for me a journey into a void.”
While the film went on to win the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, it is also being distributed by Netflix. Cuarón seems happy that the streaming giant will bring his vision to people’s homes and – in some countries – cinemas as well. “In today’s reality of foreign language films – as they call films that are not in English – with no stars, the life of theatrical distribution of your film in every country is a challenge. [With Netflix at least, there is] a whole structure that is permitting this film to be known all around the world. That’s an amazing gift.” In this case, it’s a gift well worth unwrapping.
pAst lIves Alfonso Cuarón tells the tale of his childhood through the eyes of his maid, Cleo, played by Yalitza Aparicio.
ETA | 14 DECEMBER / ROMA RELEASES ON NETFLIX AND SELECT CINEMAS NEXT MONTH.