Alfonso Cuaron Says Emmanuel Lubezki Told Him to Be His Own 'Roma' Cinematographer

Roma Still 1 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

Speaking at the London Film Festival, Cuaron explained why he had to step up to the camera himself on his acclaimed black-and-white drama.

Oscar-winning Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron made his semiautobiographical black-and-white feature Roma — his first film in 17 years set in his native Mexico — with longtime collaborator and fellow Oscar winner Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki in mind to, once again, be his director of photography. 

"It was actually written for Chivo," he told an audience at the BFI London Film Festival on Sunday, where he was giving one of the event's big "Screen Talk" Q&As (one that was pushed back by almost six hours, relocated and halved in length due to delays with Cuaron’s Ryanair flight from Italy).

However, as the development process for Roma stretched on, together with the estimated length of shoot, the timing became unfeasible for Lubezki to get involved.

“So then I had to step up, and he’s actually the one who suggested that I should do it,” Cuaron explained, adding that he was a "reluctant DoP."

But for a drama filled with scenes inspired by moments the filmmaker had witnessed in his life, he admitted that his friend had made the correct call. "He was right," he said. "For the process of this film, it was probably necessary."

Part of this process involved Cuaron not actually showing the cast members who hadn't acted on screen before the film's screenplay, and giving them contradictory information each day about what they should be doing.

"There was absolute chaos, and it was fantastic, because life is like that," he said.