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Alfonso Cuaron delivers poignant memoir of his childhood in Mexico City in ‘Roma’

Alfonso Cuaron delivers poignant memoir of his childhood in Mexico City in ‘Roma’ Stephen Schaefer Tuesday, December 04, 2018 Credit: Netflix This image released by Netflix shows filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, left, and actress Yalitza Aparicio on the set of "Roma." Cuaron’s “Roma” has dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, winning best film, best director and best cinematography. The film is Netflix’s most acclaimed release yet, and it’s widely expected to contend for best picture at the Academy Awards. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP) Credit: Courtesy This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio, center, in a scene from the film "Roma," by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. The film has dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, winning best film, best director and best cinematography. The film is Netflix’s most acclaimed release yet, and it’s widely expected to contend for best picture at the Academy Awards. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP) prev next comments VENICE — For Alfonso Cuaron, Mexico’s Oscar-winning director (“Gravity,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”), “Roma” is truly one from the heart.

A memoir of his Mexico City 1970s childhood, “Roma” has Cuaron as director-writer-producer-cinematographer-editor on his black-and-white Spanish language epic.

It’s not so unusual, he said. “This is what I’ve done in all my films — written, produced and directed.

“Being cinematographer was by accident. I was thinking of Emmanuel Lubezki (who filmed ‘Gravity’), but when I set up a timing for shootings, he wasn’t able. As we discussed other options, Emmanuel said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’”

“Roma” won the Golden Lion, the top prize, at this year’s Venice Film Festival and is being presented in 65 mm in theaters before its global Netflix release in a few weeks.

Cuaron’s attention to detail was key. Recreating the home he remembers meant retrieving some of the actual furniture. For the 110 days filming his $15 million movie, Cuaron usually improvised.

“Roma” begins as Cuaron’s upper-middle-class family disintegrates when his father leaves for another woman and his mother rages and despairs.

In a key role is Yalitza Aparicio, an indigenous Mexican woman, who plays the maid Cleo. She’s being given an Academy Award campaign as best actress.

“Cleo is based on a real person,” the 57-year-old auteur revealed. “She was my babysitter, she was my family. The interesting thing of this film is: The starting point was a process associated through memory, recording a memory.

“In this process we come to what exists now. To contemplate the character of Cleo, I started with my memories, conversations I had with Cleo.

“When you grow with somebody you love,” he discovered, “you don’t discuss their identity. In fact that’s part of the film’s DNA there. Things clear about Cleo’s character.

“There were things I never questioned and I forced myself to see Cleo as a woman who is surrounded by complexity, a member of the lower classes.

“This gives me a point of view I never had. I considered my babysitter my mother somehow.

“In our home, in my home it was the women who governed the house and managed the house — and at what point did I realize that?

“You immediately understand from adolescence onwards, there is a different reality that is evident (than the one you grew up with).

“But it was surprising for me to discover this character as a woman. It’s a bit like what happens with your mother.”

(“Roma” opens Thursday.)