News / Arts & Entertainment

Mexico Fetes Cuaron's Oscars, but Filmmakers Keep Feet on Ground

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, best director nominee for his film "Gravity," and his partner Sheherazade Goldsmith arrive at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 2, 2014.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, best director nominee for his film "Gravity," and his partner Sheherazade Goldsmith arrive at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 2, 2014.
Reuters
As Mexico basks in the glow of its first best director Oscar for Alfonso Cuaron and his blockbuster film Gravity, a new generation of homegrown filmmakers wonders if the magic of the golden statuette will rub off on them.
 
Cuaron's 3D space thriller scooped seven Oscars, the most of any film on Sunday, and was lauded for groundbreaking special effects conveying space and weightlessness, though it lost the best picture award to drama 12 Years a Slave.
 
The movie, which stars Sandra Bullock as an astronaut cut loose from her space shuttle, has already earned $700 million at the worldwide box office and Cuaron's win is the first Best Director Oscar for a Latin American.
 
However, the 52-year-old Cuaron has spent most of his career outside Mexico, after he struggled to raise financing for projects back home, and fellow leading directors Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu also both moved abroad.
 
Back in his homeland, a new generation of Mexican directors has been quick to point out Cuaron's work has had little to do with the domestic industry. Gravity was made for an estimated $100 million by Warner Bros. Pictures, while directors in Mexico have to scramble to drum up just $2 million for a film.
 
Many Mexican independent filmmakers have had more commercial success abroad than in their home country, where filmmakers complain they can't compete against the big budgets of Hollywood studios, whose films dominate screens at cinemas.
 
“The only place where you cannot see Mexican film is in Mexico,” said Ivan Avila Duenas, who debuted his fourth feature film at the National Autonomous University of Mexico's International Film Festival, FICUNAM, on Sunday.
 
Though Cuaron cut his teeth in Mexico, most of his best known works have been Hollywood-backed projects.
 
In the 1990s, he left Mexico to work in the United States, then Britain, and became more known for his movie adaptations of British authors, including the third installment of J.K. Rowling's work, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as P.D. James' dystopian Children of Men.
 
Ironically, success abroad enabled Cuaron to direct with bigger budgets in Mexico, where his 2001 Spanish-language road trip film Y Tu Mama Tambien, helped launch the international careers of actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
 
When Cuaron scored his first hit in the 1990s, Mexican film output was anemic, with only 10 or so films a year. Last year yielded over 100, aided by tax breaks for corporate sponsors and co-productions between Mexican and foreign companies.
 
Not Made in Mexico

 
Cuaron's fellow expatriates Del Toro and Inarritu, to whom he paid tribute in his Oscar acceptance speech, have also both been backed by big U.S. studios.
 
The fact is not lost on those still working in Mexico.
 
“These three do not make Mexican film. They do not make their film in the Mexican system and their themes do not result from living here in the society where the rest of us live,” said Julian Hernandez, whose brooding, homoerotic films have won international awards and foreign distribution, but which have seen little commercial success in conservative Mexico.
 
“This makes us all happy, to see a Mexican recognized,” Hernandez said. “But this doesn't mean that it will get any better for Mexican cinema.”
 
Since the “three amigos” - Cuaron, Del Toro and Inarritu - rose to international fame, another generation of filmmakers has matured and won a string of international awards.
 
But the new crop have struggled to achieve the same level of box office success and support from Hollywood.
 
Mexico's art-scene directors have won honors at the world's top festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, with gritty, personal visions that mix elements of fiction and documentary.
 
Mexican drama Despues de Lucia, or After Lucia, by writer-director Michel Franco, took the top prize in Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard category in 2012.
 
And the minimalist films of festival favorites Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante, who won the best director award in Cannes last year, star non-actors in fictional tales. Last month, Alonso Ruizpalacios won Berlin's best first feature award with his debut Gueros.
 
Meanwhile, other directors like Eugenio Polgovsky and Juan Carlos Rulfo have pushed the boundaries of documentaries.
 
“The challenge is getting more of these movies actually distributed and released,” said Robert Koehler, a Los Angeles-based film critic with publication Cinema Scope, who argued that filmmakers should look at Gravity “as the Trojan horse for importing Mexican cinema into the United States.”
 
After more than a decade of growing critical success, the local industry is finally scoring some big commercial hits.
 
Last year saw two box office records for local films, first with Nosotros los Nobles (We Are the Nobles) a comedy that lampoons Mexico's upper class, that made over $26 million.
 
It was followed by Instructions Not Included, which starred TV comic Eugenio Derbez as an Acapulco playboy forced to raise a baby dumped on his doorstep.
 
Instructions nearly doubled Nobles domestic take and went on to become the top grossing Spanish-language film in the United States, with a worldwide take of over $85 million.
 
Speaking backstage after winning, Cuaron said he hoped his success would spur more interest in other Mexican filmmakers.
 
“I don't think there is enough attention paid to Mexican culture and what is happening in Mexico,” he said.

Alfonso Cuaron talks about making Gravity:

Interview with film director Alfonso Cuaroni
X
February 28, 2014 9:29 PM
VOA's Penelope Poulou spoke with Alfonso Cuaron about his visual masterpiece "Gravity." Cuaron talks about technological challenges and innovations in making the film and the hard physical work put in by actors Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in portraying two astronauts adrift in space.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.