How Alfonso Cuarón’s Family Helped Piece Together ‘Roma’ (Exclusive)

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Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Roma, portrays a deeply emotional time during the Mexican director’s childhood. The film, shot in black and white with an almost entirely Mexican crew, marks Cuarón’s first project since 2013’s Gravity.

Cuarón, who wrote the script in three weeks and shot the film in chronological order, says his family was a key component in helping bring the film to life. 

“[My family has] been very supportive. All of them shared with me memories while I was in the process of doing it,” he told ET’s Courtney Tezeno during the film’s red carpet at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Monday. “They also shared personal objects that they kept from that time.” Those objects were included in the film. 

“The whole film is a long flashback of my childhood,” Cuarón added. “It was a whole process. The film was based on memory. I was not only recreating moments but [we] were shooting them in the place where they took place and reproducing the spaces to the inch. And also cast people that look alike to the original people 40 years ago. So, it was kind of an odd experience reliving those moments.”

Roma
Carlos Somonte/Netflix

Set in 1970 and 1971 in Colonia Roma, a town in Mexico City, the film centers on Cleo, played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, a character based on Cuarón’s nanny, whose real name is Liboria "Libo" Rodriguez. She joined the family when Cuarón was only nine months old. 

Finding the right actress to play the role of Cleo proved to be a monumental task. The casting team interviewed thousands of people in little villages across Mexico and eventually found Aparicio, a young woman with no acting experience from the state of Oaxaca. 

“The moment I met her and she walked into my office I knew it was her,” Cuarón told ET. “I was doing a film about one of the people I love most. It's a woman who raised me. So, the moment that Yalitza walked in, I instinctively knew, ‘This is it!’ I didn't have to question it or even think.”

“Yalitza is the heart of Roma,” Cuarón continued. “It's a film that without the presence of Yalitza and the performance of Yalitza it wouldn't work. This film in many ways, in my life, has been a before and after. So, Yalitza is very important in my life.” 

Since the film's release in November, its become a favorite among critics and audiences taking top prizes this awards season. 

It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year and garnered Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography at the Critics’ Choice Awards. It also took home two major wins in the Best Foreign Language and Best Director categories at the 76th Annual Golden Globes.

Roma received 10 Oscar nominations this year including, Best Picture, Best Foreign Language, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. The 91st Annual Academy Awards will take place Sunday, Feb. 24, at Los Angeles' Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Center and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT.

This article was originally published on Dec. 11, 2018.

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