Alfonso Cuaron’s intimate family drama Roma – hailed as a masterpiece by critics – has been nominated for a haul of gongs at the 91st Academy Awards.
It is the 11th foreign language film to receive a best picture nomination and would be the first to win.
Filmed in black-and-white, with all the dialogue in Spanish, the movie is set in 1970s Mexico City and paints a portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amid political turmoil.
The semi-autobiographical story is based on the director’s childhood memories, and focuses on a housekeeper and nanny named Cleo, played by indigenous Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio.
In Cuaron’s native country it has started a national conversation about inequality and the treatment of domestic workers and in December, Aparicio appeared on the cover of Vogue Mexico, a milestone for a woman of indigenous descent in the magazine’s 20-year history.
The film is named after the upscale district of Mexico City where Curaon grew up and stars mostly non-professionals, including Aparicio, who had just completed her teaching degree when she auditioned for the film on a whim.
Throughout the film Cleo’s personal life unravels, as does the relationship between the parents of the children she cares for, and the film juxtaposes her struggles with those of their mother Sofia.
The Gravity director, the first Mexican film-maker to win an Oscar – for Gravity – also served as cinematographer for the film, which crosses paths with the Corpus Christi massacre, when around 120 people were killed by the military during a student demonstration.
It has made history as the first Netflix film to score a best picture nomination but has provoked controversy with traditionalists concerned that streaming services will sound the death knell for cinema.
Roma is streaming on Netflix now.