Director Alfonso Cuarón and actresses Yalitza Aparicio and Marina De Tavira meet in a warm embrace during the 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. Cuarón is this year’s recipient of the Sonny Bono Visionary Award. To honor the director’s film career, there was a screening of Roma, his latest autobiographical piece.
“It’s not so much about my childhood but rather, a tribute to the woman that raised me,” Cuarón said.
The woman Cuarón is referring to is the person who gave life to Cleo, an indigenous woman who is a domestic worker in an affluent mexican neighborhood called “Colonia Roma.” Each sound and image in Roma is drawn from cuaron’s deepest childhood memories.
“I’m happy to be here, I’m surprised especially because a movie made in Spanish with a Mexican indigenous woman as the main character is being recognized,” he said.
Yalitza Aparicio plays Cleo. Aparicio had recently graduated to work as a school teacher before getting cast for the film. As a woman of indigenous descent partaking in an internationally renowned film, she is breaking social barriers in a society facing issues of race and class. Being in the spotlight is an entirely new world for Aparicio yet, she is using her platform to empower others.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase the diversity we have in Mexico,” Aparicio said.
To prepare for her role, Aparicio even had to learn Mixteco, a native Mexican language.
“I want people who speak a Native language to continue to do so, because it is something beautiful,” she said. “It’s part of our identity, and we need to preserve that heritage for the rest of our lives.”
Something that has captivated viewers is the fact that Roma has strong female characters.
Hebe Tabachnik is one of the programmers for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She calls the film “a masterpiece.”
“Cleo, she is part of this family, but at the same time, she knows that she is never going to be completely part of it,” Tabachnik said. “However, she is sort of the glue, the spirit, her heart, the way she cares for everyone, she is who keeps the family together.”
After the screening, the cast had a conversation with attendees about the making of this film. If you haven’t watched Roma, you can find it at your nearest movie theater or you can stream it on Netflix.