News / Arts & Entertainment

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

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, best director nominee for his film
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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”