Film Review:‘Roma’ delivers soul, spirit — and a dash of Mexican magic

A still from 'Roma.' (Supplied)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Film Review:‘Roma’ delivers soul, spirit — and a dash of Mexican magic

  • “Roma,” weaves a magical family tale with endearing simplicity and sensitivity
  • The film is set in a prosperous household in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the early 1970s

CHENNAI: Tipped as a strong Oscar contender, Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent black-and-white magnum opus, “Roma,” weaves a magical family tale with endearing simplicity and sensitivity.

The film is set in a prosperous household in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the early 1970s. But its soul and spirit come from the maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who takes care of the family — and their pet dog — with clockwork precision.

Based on Cuaron’s own maid when he was growing up, Cleo is seen cleaning the driveway as the movie opens, and we later see her doing the laundry, taking the four children to school and helping out in the kitchen. For the most part, Cleo hardly speaks, and appears stoic and solemn, but she shares a beautiful bond with her mistress, Sofia (Marina de Tavira).

Dotted with intimate detail, “Roma” is a splendid study of a family whose idyllic life goes into a tailspin, as does that of the maid. Scenes including the children trying to put out a forest fire while on holiday are so finely shot that they remain etched in memory.

There are many more such moments: A man shot dead in a furniture shop during the 1971 Corpus Christi massacre; Cleo saving two children from drowning in the sea. It is rare to see such thought going into a film, and the compelling black-and-white photography — handled by Cuaron (who also wrote and co-edited) — give “Roma” a strong documentary feel.

The film continues to make headlines after appearing on Netflix on Dec. 14. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it clinched the Golden Lion for best picture, and is now on the first shortlist for the 2019 foreign language Oscar.

Cuaron, who gave us the exhilarating “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” and fantasies such as “Gravity” and “Children of Men,” has created a neorealist work that is both grand in scale and extraordinarily intimate.


Artists discuss their most personal pieces at Sharjah Film Platform

Updated 36 min 12 sec ago
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Artists discuss their most personal pieces at Sharjah Film Platform

SHARJAH: An artist’s work reveals how they see the world through their own personal lens and that theme was explored at a recent panel discussion during the inaugural Sharjah Film Platform festival.

Set to wrap up on Jan. 26, the film festival is screening more than 140 movies from over 40 countries and is also hosting a series of panel discussions — all organized by the Sharjah Art Foundation.

One of the panel discussions, titled “Ethnographic Entanglements,” saw artist Minia Biabiany, artist Basir Mahmood and filmmaker-artist Laura Huertas Millan come together to debate themes of ethnography — the study of people and cultures that is designed to explore the phenomena of researchers observing society from the point of view of the subject of the study.  

Artist Mahmood discussed a video installation he created called “I’m on the ‘us’ side and you are on the other.”

The work documents Pakistani and Indian army parades between the two countries’ borders and the artist told the crowd that the aim of the piece was to look at an issue that is so personal to him from an outsider’s perspective while sharing that experience with the audience.

For her part, Biabiany took to the stage to discuss the inspiration for her art piece, “Toli Toli” (2018), which was shown at the 10th Berlin Biennale.

The art piece reflects on knowledge systems, gestures, and narratives that are disappearing from the artist’s native Guadeloupe. The art work combines hand-woven bamboo mats with a video production by the artist in an installation that mimicks the traditional fishing traps of Guadeloupe — a metaphor for the entanglement of the country’s tropical environment with its colonial past.

Meanwhile, Millan spoke about her interest in post-colonialism and said that it was sparked after she saw postcards with images of indigenous people, portraying them from a subordinate, inferior angle. One of the artist’s films, “Journey to a Land Otherwise Known,” was inspired by the so-called human zoos in Europe during the height of the colonial period in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

The film centers on a tropical greenhouse in France and is narrated by excerpts from colonial books describing the people and lands they conquered and explored.