Al­fonso Cuarón

Time Out Abu Dhabi - - INSIDE -

ASIDE FROM WIN­NING the Best Di­rec­tor Os­car for Grav­ity, Al­fonso Cuarón has the best

Harry Pot­ter movie (The Pris­oner of Azk­a­ban), a dystopian clas­sic (Chil­dren of Men), and an in­die road-trip gem (Y Tu Mamá Tam­bién) on his mercurial CV.

So he’s def­i­nitely earned the right to spend some time re­liv­ing his own past with his lat­est film. Roma is a mas­ter­ful sort-of-mem­oir set in the 1970s Mex­ico City of his child­hood. It’s

a lov­ing trib­ute to the women who raised him that will move all but the stoni­est-hearted.

He has de­scribed it as the “most es­sen­tial” movie of his ca­reer and it’s the film he’s been work­ing to­wards since his de­but in 1991. In many ways it’s the per­fect widescreen film, all sweep­ing mono­chrome shots that throw­back to a golden age of cinema. It was re­leased on Net­flix, though, a move that courted some con­tro­versy for such a suc­cess­ful di­rec­tor. How­ever, Cuarón said it was the best home for such a per­sonal, se­cre­tive pro­ject.

Roma is set in 1970s Mex­ico City and it fol­lows Cleo (Yal­itza Apari­cio), a do­mes­tic worker for a mid­dle-class fam­ily. The di­rec­tor draws on his youth for a pow­er­ful drama about so­cial class, do­mes­tic strife and po­lit­i­cal up­heaval. We chat to him about the movie and some of his past glo­ries.

Roma is in­spired by your child­hood, but it’s not about a ten-year-old Al­fonso Cuarón. Why not?

I’ve never been in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing my child­hood. I was try­ing to come to terms with this bond I have with one of the peo­ple I love the most [his for­mer nanny, Libo] and the recog­ni­tion that we come from two com­pletely dif­fer­ent mi­cro­cosms. It was a pe­riod that in­cluded the di­vorce of my par­ents, and I wanted to ap­proach that some­how.

What was it like film­ing in Mex­ico again?

In­tense, be­cause [Mex­ico City] has grown out of con­trol. I’d de­scribe places in the script but when I went to them, they weren’t recog­nis­able. That was my con­fronta­tion with vis­it­ing the past: that con­trast be­tween who you are and who you were.

How did it feel to hear Guillermo del Toro name Roma one of his five favourite films?

The other ones are Y Tu Mamá Tam­bién…

[laughs]. At first I thought he was say­ing it as a friend, but he hugged me and said, “You de­scribed my house, I had the same car, the court­yard was the same, and the rooftop was the same.” I am ab­so­lutely flat­tered.

Talk­ing of Guillermo del Toro, is it true he told you you’d be an id­iot not to di­rect

Harry Pot­ter and the Pris­oner of Azk­a­ban?

He has told me that I am an id­iot for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but yes, this was one of the rea­sons he told me that.

Is it true you hadn’t heard of the Harry Pot­ter books when you were of­fered the film?

No, I had heard about them, but [it] was so far off my radar. It was af­ter Y Tu Mamá Tam­bién and I’d just read Chil­dren of Men and my head was in all these pre­dic­tions about what would hap­pen [in the world] in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture. So I was like, “Not in­ter­ested.” That’s why he told me I was an id­iot – and he was right.

Did you get him any­thing to say thanks?

Well, now you say that, I feel like an id­iot again...

→ Roma is on Net­flix now.

“Guillermo has told me I’m an id­iot for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons”

Di­rec­tor Al­fonso Cuarón on his mas­ter­piece Roma and al­most turn­ing down Harry Pot­ter.

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