Roma directed by Alfonso Cuarón, focuses on a well-known figure for many rich Latin-American families, the nanny and maid. They are usually portrayed as silent types, deprived of discourse and leading a life of servitude to their masters. The film is nothing new and in fact, it has many similarities to the 2009 award winning Bolivian film, “The Southern District “ and the also award winning Chilean film, “The Maid”.
“Roma” is one of the most lauded films of the year, possibly a 2019 Oscar contender and already the Golden Globe winner in the Foreign Film category. For many Latin-Americans, this film is also an example of the elitism of the film world, and particularly so in that part of the world where filmmaking is pretty much an exclusive members club for the privileged few. Amongst them, Alfonso Cuarón as well as Oscar winners Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and Guillermo del Toro or Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles. All male, white and rich-upper class members of society who were brought up with maids and nannies.
Roma focuses on a young indigenous woman who works as a maid for a middle-class white family that is falling apart.“Roma” is a neighbourhood in Mexico City where maids keep homes running. The Southern District is also a rich area in La Paz where upper class families live with their Cholitas -indigenous women- cleaning their homes and bringing up the children of the wealthy few.
In Roma, Cuarón expresses gratitude but also a total indifference towards the housekeeper. A woman pretty much devoid of the fiery and feisty character of many Latin-American Indigenous women. If anything, indigenous women in Bolivia and Mexico are part of a “Matriarchy”.
Even though this is not a review of Roma, I would like to point out that Cuarón served as the director of photography in this film and did an astonishing job. Black-and-white, with images of extraordinary detail and tonality. Cuarón makes ordinary life, look extraordinary.
The three amigos, just like all the Latin-American filmmakers making it big these days, are all part of an elitist male dominated film world. Hollywood sees them as a “minority”- as if somehow they were part of the Caravan crossing the Mexican border- but they are a different kind of minority. That of rich people who can afford making films about the maids and nannies who brought them up.I would love to see more stories from American filmmakers who are of indigenous descent or who were brought up by their mums not their nannies as they couldn’t afford one. The only well-known one not from a white, upper class background that comes to my mind as I write this, is the wonderful Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés. One of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century, and the first film director to produce films in Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia. So if you are looking for some revolutionary content that won’t make it to the Golden Globes, do check Sanjinés films: Ukamau, The Blood of the Condor, The Secret Nation.