Alfonso Cuarón Speaks on the Personal Significance of “Roma” to His Life and Career

On the eve of the 2019 Oscars, director Alfonso Cuarón has spoken to Vogue about his Best Picture-nominated film, Roma. For those who haven’t seen the film, it follows the experiences of Cleo, a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City, as she helps care for a family of four children. The film has a personal connection for Cuarón, who based Cleo on his own childhood caretaker, Liboria “Libo” Rodríguez.

This autobiographical connection clearly had a powerful effect on Cuarón, who expressed that making Roma was a unique experience for him.

This film is nothing like what I’ve done before. It is the first film where I decided to be absolutely free.

But the implications for Roma also go beyond the personal. As the Vogue article points out, Roma winning Best Picture would be a historic event, the first time a film of Latin American origin, in Spanish and Mixtec – an indigenous dialect – would receive this honor. Though Cuarón’s first film, Y Tu Mamá También, was also set in Mexico, the director’s career – and success – has since been built in part on big-budget Hollywood features like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Gravity. Cuarón admits that this is often what the industry requires of successful directors.

I don’t think adapting to the industry is necessarily a good thing. For me it is about survival. I admire the directors who have decided to go against the grain and follow their own rules. I’ve done that too, in ways… I wouldn’t want to work [on] a film that wasn’t mine.

Even in those big-budget films, the director finds a way to leave his mark. According to Cuarón, he does it by focusing on the story, rather than high-tech visual effects.

What prevails in my films are the principles of storytelling, not technology. I’m not a technological person… It can come and go, but what ultimately matters is life. Technology is only a medium that converges with life, nothing more.

If you haven’t yet seen Roma, it is now available to stream on Netflix. Good luck to Cuarón at the Oscars tonight!