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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."