Cinema cannot be held hostage to just one economic model, says Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron whose film “Roma” was at the centre of intense debate between streaming versus theatrical that has divided the world of movies and their makers.
“Roma”, despite being the obvious frontrunner and claiming three top awards including the Best Director Oscar for Cuaron, could not claim the top prize of Best Picture, which went to “Green Book”, sparking sharp reactions from cinema lovers.
Some interpreted it as the result of a fight between Hollywood studios and Netflix after it was reported that filmmaker Steven Spielberg was pushing for a rule change by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to exclude streaming services from Oscars eligibility.
While Cuaron does not think “Roma” lost because of the resistance to the way it was distributed, he does believe that the debate has very little to do with cinema.
“Definitely, there is a debate going on. For me, that debate relates very little with cinema. It is just about economic models. If there is anything within these conversations, it is that they use cinema as hostage to justify their economic model. I don’t like that because it is not about that. It is just about their economic model,” Cuaron told PTI over phone from the US.
The director believes striking a balance between economic models will benefit cinema at large.
“A balance between those models and Netflix and, cinema in general, can bring new possibilities for special kind of films that are neglected in the last few years by the theatrical experience,” he added.
Cuaron, however, said he does not have an “answer” to why “Roma” lost to “Green Book”.
“I cannot say that’s what happened. I don’t have any reason to support those theories. I mean there are other films that they liked better or maybe were better to call the best film of the year,” he said.
“Roma”, shot in black-and-white, is a memory piece from Cuaron’s childhood spent in a Mexican suburb and revolves around a housemaid, Cleo. The film, despite being shot in Spanish, has found universal love, something that has surprised the director, who is more famous for directing Hollywood projects such as “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Gravity”.
Cuaron said he made “Roma” to “heal personal wounds” but was surprised by the “beautiful acceptance” from the audience.
“I am very pleased of course, but I would lie if I said I was not surprised,” he said.
Asked whether it may have to do with the projection of working classes who are generally ignored in cinema, the director said, “Probably, but at the same time, I cannot be certain that it is only that”.
“Definitely, there was a strong emotional connection with the film... I have to say that in certain countries like your country (India) and in Mexico, we have such a sharp contrast in terms of class. In these countries, the film has opened up a conversation. For that, I am very pleased but it was not by design.
“I was doing a film, in which, I was going to portray, as honestly as possible, both my personal wounds and social wounds. Personal wounds, in terms of my family and myself. But you cannot do that without having the context. It was about the wounds that I share with the society and ultimately, what was surprising was that I ended up sharing those wounds with the rest of the world.”
Those who follow Cuaron’s cinema notice the director’s fascination with elements, particularly the ocean, which is somewhat a recurring theme in “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, “Gravity” and in “Roma”.
Cuaron said he was unaware of his affinity towards oceans until it was pointed out to him.
“I was completely unaware of it until people started mentioning. That was never by design that I set out to do but I guess it has happened like that. Of course, oceans have a huge symbolic quality, in terms of who we are in terms of evolution. Oceans are our primordial suit, we are born through it…
“Of course, we believe water and oceans, in terms of certain cleansing and purity. All the rituals of cleansing, in most cultures, are always related with water. We have our rituals and in India, you have the (river) Ganges,” he said.
The decision to shoot the film in monochrome, which earned him the Best Cinematography award at the Oscars, was also something that came instinctively to Cuaron.
“With ‘Roma’, I never questioned the black-and-white format. The film is about Cleo (a stand-in for Cuaron’s nanny Liboria ‘Libo’ Rodriguez whom he dedicates the film to). The project was a memory and it was to be done in black-and-white. Those are the things I was certain about. You don’t question it because they are the DNA of your film.
“I come from an older generation, a generation where I enjoyed watching films in black-and-white as a child. I was already a teenager when we had our first colour TV. So it was normal for me to watch black-and-white films. We were used to that. Now, of course, it has become something that is stylish. It was not like that before.
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