ROMA I Al­fonso Cuarón takes a stroll down mem­ory lane for this epic child­hood tale…

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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.


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