The 76th anniversary of the Golden Globes had a Mexican flavor to it Sunday night, as Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” picked-up the award in the Best Foreign Film category, while Cuarón scooped the Best Director award, for the second time in his career.
In “Roma,” the director uses the big screen to chronicle the life of several traditional women, in particular an indigenous girl working as a maid for a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.
The film is crucial in highlighting the difference in fortunes between the traditional Mexican characters and the middle-class families at a time marked by political upheavel, stemming from the 1968 Massacre of Tlatelolco. The ‘Massacre’ saw dozens of student protestors gunned down in cold blood at the hands of the repressive government snipers, led by President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.
Amidst a whirlwind chaotic family life, exacerbated by the family’s inability to carry out simple tasks, the protagonist Cleo is the one calming influence, albeit internally she struggles with the dichotomy between her less-than-privileged past, and her newly-acquired, quasi-wealthy surroundings. This is portrayed in Cuarón’s brilliant cinematography, with the utilization of film noir techniques that highlight Cleo’s mannerisms when dealing with the violent reality of her colonial past. The director further enhances the dramatic tone by following Cleo in order to get her point of view, as well as the viewers’ perspective.
Cuarón shared an insight into the thinking behind his techniques when he told reporters, "Cinema is at its best when it tears down walls and builds bridges to another culture ... These new shapes and faces enable us to realize, that, yes, while strange, not unfamiliar. We begin to understand exactly how much we have in common."
The director is fluent in Hollywood storytelling, and this is perhaps the biggest criticism of the film with several sources arguing that there is a disparity of the social class in the picture that simultaneously airs on Netflix as well as in theatre’s.
For example, author Philip Jenkins argues that, “although the family love Cleo, there is never any doubt that they expect her to serve, because that is what women like her do for people like them.” Jenkins’ reminds the audience that, while an apparent feel-good movie, this is still a film about race, racial hierarchy, and racial privilege.
In his article, “Roma, Race, and Faith,” Jenkins points out that society forgets how tens of millions of Latino’s, while, retaining their traditional language and culture, do not merely consist of Indian features, neither the bourgeoisie behaving simply European.
Nonetheless, it was a good night at the ‘Globes for Latin Americans, and a memorable night for veteran actor Jeff Bridges, who was anointed with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The 69 year-old star of cult classic “The Big Lebowski” picked-up one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry, when he was given the Cecil B. De Mille award.
Elsewhere, Rami Malek won Best Actor for his haunting portrayal of Queen singer Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” while the film itself picked up the award for Best Dramatic Film. Screen icon Glenn Close won the Best Actress in a Drama in an adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's novel, “The Wife.”