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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."