Oscars 2018: The new wave of Mexican masters

Judging from the results of the recent Oscars the idea of a wall dividing the US and Mexico seems ludicrous. Latin American artists and stories reigned supreme on Sunday, 4 March 2018, with the biggest awards of the evening – best picture and best director – going to Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water.



Del Toro isn’t the first Mexican director to win; he’s not even the first in recent years. He follows Alfonso Cuarón, who won for Gravity in 2014, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who won in 2015 and 2016 for Birdman and The Revenant.

The animated film winner was the Pixar movie Coco, which is a kaleidoscopic celebration of Mexico’s annual Day of the Dead tradition. The film became the highest-grossing film in Mexican history when it was released there.

Coco also won best song for Remember Me, composed by the married songwriters behind Frozen, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

Coco would not exist without your endlessly beautiful culture and traditions,” co-director Lee Unkrich said in his acceptance speech, referring to Mexico. “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

The master trio of  New Mexican Cinema

Guillermo del Toro is probably the best-known proponent of the movement known as New Mexican Cinema. His fantasy romance The Shape of Water was nominated for 13 Oscars – the most of any film. In the run-up to the Oscars he won the Directors’ Guild of America Award.


Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

Alfonso Cuarón became the first Mexican filmmaker to win the Oscar for Best Director in 2014 when his ambitious sci-fi drama Gravity was acknowledged by the Academy. Since then the Best Director Oscar has been dominated by filmmakers of Mexican origin. Alejandro G. Iñárritu has won twice, for Birdman and The Revenant.

What has led to the new wave of success for Mexican directors?

Dr Miriam Haddu, senior lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Royal Holloway University said “I think it has been a long time coming. All three of these directors started around the same time in the 1990s, from similar backgrounds, and then moved to Hollywood, so it has probably been building up as the culmination of quite a lot of work,” reports New Statesman.

“I think there are a lot of factors that have come into play to make them not just recognised as successful Mexican directors, but as successful directors. It might be timing that is crucial. It’s reflective of the climate in Hollywood, which is now much more open to alternatives.”

Del Toro is a filmmaker who has gripped audiences for years with his depictions of monsters. He has made big Hollywood movies such as Hellboy and Blade II, alongside the more humanist ghost story Devil’s Backbone and his dark fairy tale masterpiece Pan’s LabyrinthThe Shape of Water is a fusion of those two halves – an entirely American story told with Del Toro’s signature poetic flair.

So much for Trump’s wall

There’s an irresistible urge to discuss the movie world‘s warm embrace of Mexican artists in the context of the US administration’s threat to erect a border wall between the two countries.

It’s as if the push from Donald Trump to create a solid divide between the nations is being countered by the rich Mexican culture seeping through, reports New Statesman.


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