The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards aired Sunday—the beginning of many in this year’s long, unconventional awards show season. These shows, taking place between now and late April, celebrate television and film both in the United States and from around the world. Mexican cinema has particularly influenced United States awards shows. Between directors, writers, and actors, Mexican films and filmmakers have held a powerful influence over International categories as well as compete for best picture, best director, and best actor and actress awards. Though there are so many individuals and projects that have contributed to Mexican cinema’s presence in these shows, a few directors, actresses, actors, and films have particularly stood out in recent years.
Some big names continue to mark Hollywood with their cinematic expertise: Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón. Sometimes called ‘The Three Amigos,’ these directors have dominated the Academy Awards Best Director category within the past decade, the three of them earning a total of five wins between 2013 and 2018.
Their award-winning projects include González Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015), Cuarón’s Gravity (2013) and Roma (2018), and del Toro’s The Shape of Water (2017). Both The Shape of Water and Birdman won Oscars for Best Picture. Likewise, The Shape of Water, Gravity, and The Revenant were all nominated or winners of Best Picture – Drama, and Cuarón and del Toro winners of Best Director at the Golden Globe awards.
Roma particularly gathered national and international attention with its gripping and heart wrenching story leaving viewers engrossed in the story of the main character, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and the family for whom she works.
But mostly limited to a focus on the family and Cleo’s challenges, some were disappointed by the representation of the political unrest at the time as well as the story’s “political complacency,” an unexpected result given the past relationship between political conflict and film in Mexico—the rise of Mexican cinema in 1910 was intertwined with the Mexican Revolution.
Aparicio’s performance in Roma earned her a nomination in the Best Actress category at the Academy Awards—the first woman of Indigenous descent to receive the recognition. Aparicio could convey Cleo’s thoughts by only saying few words. Some viewers, however, were unsatisfied with Cleo’s character development and minimal speaking, arguing the “effacement of Cleo’s character, her reduction to a bland and blank trope that burnishes the director’s conscience while smothering her consciousness and his own, is the essential and crucial failure,” as well as pointing out that her silence leaves the depicted political conflicts unclear.
There’s no question that Roma held a dominant presence in the 2018 awards season, picking up a nomination in the Academy Awards Best Picture, and won in the Academy Awards Foreign Language Film category and Golden Globes Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language category.
Other actors from Mexico have left their mark on awards shows in the United States within the past couple decades, as well. Gael García Bernal, who won a Golden Globe in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical category for his performance in the television show Mozart in the Jungle (2014-2018), also starred in Amores Perros (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000) and Y Tú Mama También (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) which were both nominated for Golden Globes and Academy Award Oscars.
Salma Hayek, a Mexican American actress and producer, has picked up several nominations at awards shows in the United States, including a Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award Oscar nomination for her performance in Frida (dir. Julie Taymor, 2002). Nearly two decades later, she continues to be a successful actress and celebrity in the United States.
These nominations and wins draw attention to the role Mexican filmmakers play in film in the United States. Some influential directors from Mexico, including del Toro, are working on new projects in 2020 and 2021. While we enter another round of awards shows, we should acknowledge the role of Mexican film and filmmakers in Hollywood.