Oscars 2019: 'Roma,' Alfonso Cuaron's 'masterpiece,' could become first foreign language film to win Best Picture

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The Academy Awards are just around the corner. Nominees were announced last week and there could be some history-making wins. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP)

Roma is not your conventional Oscars frontrunner. Not only is it distributed by Netflix, but the black-and-white art piece is in Spanish and features a total newcomer in the lead role.

Nevertheless, it will undoubtedly be among the films to beat at the Oscars. The word "masterpiece" has been thrown around by multiple movie critics, and when the nominees were announced, Roma tied for the most with 10.

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Here's what you should know about the film that could make history at the Oscars.

What is Roma about?

The story follows Cleo, a housekeeper in the Roma section of Mexico City in the 1970s. Cleo is beloved in the household where she works and lives, especially by the four children. In the beginning, the film paints an intimate portrait of household life. Its scope slowly expands as we witness scenes from Cleo's personal life, the household's extended family and the country's civil unrest.

Who made Roma and who is in Roma?

Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron is known for everything from blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to critically acclaimed works like Y Tu Mamá También, to his Oscar-winning space epic Gravity. For Roma, Cuaron is credited for directing, writing and some of the technical elements like cinematography.

The main character, Cleo, is played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, a former teacher, in her first acting credit. Marina de Tavira, who plays the mother character, is a Mexican stage actress who also has film and TV credits to her name.

What is Roma nominated for?

Here are all of Roma's nominations:

Best Picture
Best Directing (Alfonso Cuaron)
Best Actress (Yalitza Aparicio)
Best Supporting Actress (Marina de Tavira)
Best Cinematography
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing

Best Original Screenplay


Is Roma based on a true story?

Roma is inspired by Cuaron's childhood, and he started with his own memories. He wanted to tell his family's story from the perspective of his housekeeper, Liboria "Libo" Rodríguez, as a tribute to the woman who helped raise him.

"Libo, like so many domestic workers, they go beyond a normal job and take on all these roles that are supposed to be covered by the parents," he told Variety.

Though the names have been changed, Cuaron wanted to get the true spirit of his childhood, and he searched far and wide to find someone who embodied Libo.

"I'd meet women who looked like Libo, but they wouldn't feel like her. Or sometimes I'd meet people who felt like Libo, but they didn't look like her," he told the Guardian. "With Yalitza, there was this amazing sense of familiarity; this mix of intelligence and warmth."

He painstakingly worked to recreate his childhood as told through her eyes.

"He was getting all this information without me knowing what it was for," Rodríguez told Variety through a translator. "'How do you remember this, Libo?' he said. 'Help me remember and understand.' Then it started to become weird. 'Libo, what did you used to wear? How did you dress?' Things like that. I never imagined everything I'm living right now, that a film would be based on me."

Which records could Roma break?

If it wins Best Picture, Roma would be the first foreign language film to claim the Oscars' top prize. It's already made history as Netflix's first nominee in the category.

In 2013, Alfonso Cuaron became the first Mexican director to win Best Director with Gravity. Since then, a Mexican director has won every year but one. This year, Cuaron could become the first director to win for a foreign-language movie with Roma.

In fact, in half of its categories (Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design and Best Sound Mixing), Roma would become the first foreign language film to win, according to the Oscars statistics database. Pawel Pawlikowski could also make history as a director, as he is nominated for Poland's Best Foreign Language Film entry Cold War.

Aparicio is the first Indigenous Mexican woman nominated for an Oscar, according to the New York Times, and she could become the first to win.
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