Last night Roma didn’t win for Best Picture (mass eye roll for Green Book’s win) and Yalitza Aparicio didn’t win Best Actress in a leading role, and yes we’re disappointed. But we’re not hopeless.
As Latinas, we’re used to not winning awards. I mean let’s face it it’s been 58 years since a Latina has won an acting Oscar (Shout out to reina Rita Moreno). However this year, Latinos proved we will not and cannot be ignored. And I’m not just talking about Jennifer Lopez’s mirror dress, which we’re pretty sure she wore so the max number of Latinas could see themselves on screen. Or the crazy amount of Spanish we heard on the Oscar stage AND during the Oscar ads. I’m talking about how Roma not only won Alfonso Cuarón Oscars for directing, cinematography, and best “foreign” language film, but made a larger statement about the importance of Latino made and driven films.
“I grew up watching foreign language movies and learning so much from them and being inspired like Citizen Kane, Jaws, Rashomon, The Godfather, Breathless… The nominations tonight prove we are part of the same ocean.” – Alfonso Cuarón
Cuarón’s speech tells us everything we need to know. The idea of a “foreign” film makes Spanish and all non-English language films others. It says those stories are different and don’t belong to us. This despite the fact that English is NOT the official language of the US (nor should it be of Hollywood). What stories are “ours” is not based on borders and walls. The talent at the Oscars understood this, even if the categories didn’t reflect it. Even the sponsors got in on the game - shout out to Verizon and Rolex who had non-subtitled Spanish in their ads. It’s like they realized that Latinx people exist and spend money too.
Hopefully, this Oscars acts as the start of greater inclusion for Latinos and all the stories we have to tell. Because I think we can all agree, we definitely don’t need another biopic about Winston Churchill. Or another movie about racism written and directed by white men.
As Javier Bardem said in Spanish no less (but with English subtitles), “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent. In any region of any country of any continent, there are always great stories that move us and tonight we celebrate the excellence and importance of the cultures and languages of different countries.”
Again and again people of color have proven that our stories are not only worth telling but add a richness and diversity that society cannot ignore. Let’s check the stats: 5 of the last 6 winners of best director have been Mexican. At this year’s Oscars, three of the four acting winners were people of color. Black women won firsts in costume design and set production. And women took home a record breaking 15 Oscars this year, three for directing. Roma was particularly special because it starred an indigenous woman, took place in Mexico with everyone speaking either Spanish or Mixtec, AND won 3 Oscars. A film about Mexicans made by Mexicans that wins all the awards? That’s rare. Roma‘s success has allowed us a glimpse of what we’re capable of if people just give us a seat at the table.