Oscars: 10 Things to Know About Best Picture Nominee 'Roma'

9:51 AM 2/19/2019

by Jasmyne Bell

Broken Oscar records, acting newcomers and a very personal tale for its writer-director-cinematographer-producer, Alfonso Cuarón.

Courtesy of Netflix

Roma is nominated for 10 Oscars this year: best picture, best actress (Yalitza Aparicio), best supporting actress (Marina de Tavira), best director (Alfonso Cuarón), foreign-language film, best original screenplay (Cuarón), best cinematography (Cuarón, again), best sound mixing, best production design and best sound editing.

The film was very intricately shot and took longer than a decade to get off the ground. Director Alfonso Cuarón spent countless hours trying to depict his childhood in Roma, Mexico City, as authentically as possible — and it clearly paid off in terms of its accolades.

Here are 10 things to know about the Mexican film.

  • 'Roma' Is Heavily Based on Cuarón's Childhood in Mexico City

    Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

    Every detail of the film, down to the leaves on the ground of the set, was crafted so that it would reflect the director's childhood as accurately as possible. But this story is not the typical autobiographical piece; the film revolves around Cleo, who is based on Cuarón's childhood nanny, Libo. Roma was meant to be an ode to the sacrifices women make for their families.

  • The Film Was Shot Without Rehearsals and Almost Without a Script

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Alfonso Cuarón was very particular about the way he shot Roma. The film was reportedly shot with no rehearsals, and hardly had a script. And when the cast was chosen, they were not allowed to see the script right away. "Everything was really magical, really mysterious," said Marina de Tavira, who portrays the character based on Cuarón's mother.

  • 'Roma' Marks Yalitza Aparicio's Acting Debut

    Courtesy of Netflix

    The 24-year-old breakout star had no plans to become an actress. During the time of casting for Roma, Aparicio was working toward becoming a preschool teacher. She was initially reluctant to audition for the film because she was concerned that it might have been a human trafficking ploy. Her sister brought her along to the audition and ended up encouraging her to try out for the film.

  • Marina de Tavira Was the Only Trained Actor on Set

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Marina de Tavira said that it was a challenge to have to unlearn everything she has been doing throughout her decades-long career. "We had to really make an adjustment to the way I approach acting normally," explained de Tavira. "I had to unlearn what I was used to — which was going through an intellectual process, analyzing the character or maybe preparing a scene — that was just what [Alfonso] didn't want, preconception of any kind."

  • 'Roma' Landed Netflix Its First Best Picture Nomination


    Netflix has received attention from the Academy Awards before, and has even earned a couple of wins since 2014. But the streaming service has yet to score recognition in the Oscars' top category — until now. Roma earned Netflix its first nomination for best picture.

  • Alfonso Cuaron Tied the Record for Most Personal Nominations for a Film

    Getty Images

    The auteur earned nominations in the categories of best director, best original screenplay, cinematography and best picture (as a producer). Cuarón is now tied with the Coen brothers, who scored four nominations for 2008's No Country for Old Men. While Cuarón was also eligible for best editing, he did not receive a nomination in that category.

  • The Women of Roma Set New Records for the Oscars

    Gabriela Rodriguez
    Gabriela Rodriguez
    Mike Marsland/WireImage

    Producer Gabriela Rodriguez is the first Latina woman to be nominated for a best picture Oscar. "What a time to be a woman, to be Latina, to be Venezuelan in this trying time for my country," said Rodriguez of her recognition. "And to be able to bring good news, I'm excited."

    Another record-breaking woman is star Yalitza Aparicio, who is the first indigenous Mexican woman to be nominated for best actress.

  • Cuarón Calls Out Mexico for Racism

    Courtesy of Netflix

    While making Roma, Cuarón was reflecting on his upbringing and trying to capture every essence of his childhood. A big part of that history involved pondering the longstanding element of racism where he lived. While he grew up identifying as white, his roots are deep in Mexican heritage. Cuarón does not turn a blind eye to the racist tones of his country: "People like to talk about these issues of inequality and discrimination by using the term 'classism' — as if that would make it better. But let's call it for what it is. It's racism."

  • Cuarón Isn't Happy With the Subtitling in Spain

    Carlos Somonte/Netflix

    While the film is already entirely in Spanish, it was subtitled in Spain in a different dialect of the language (Castilian Spanish) — and Alfonso Cuarón is not happy about it. He finds it "very offensive for the Spanish public" and "very, very ridiculous." The subtitling has been defended by some Spanish speakers, saying they "have trouble understanding the dialogue" due to the Mexican accents.

  • The Final Scene at the Beach Incorporated Visual Effects

    Courtesy of Netflix

    The final scene in Roma shows the children running into the ocean, but when they appear to be struggling, Cleo goes to rescue them. While the sequence where Cleo goes in the ocean to retrieve the kids looks like one uninterrupted shot, it is made up of several different takes being stitched together. The height of the water was adjusted to make it look deeper, as well as the views of the sky.