NETFLIX black-and-white production Roma triumphed at the Bafta film awards, boosting Oscar hopes for the US streaming giant whose rise poses a serious challenge to the conventional Hollywood business model. The cinematic love letter to director Alfonso Cuaron’s 1970s childhood in Mexico City beat black comedy The Favourite to win best film and best director. “I’m seriously touched this film has been received the way it’s been received,” Cuaron said at a star-studded ceremony on Sunday in London’s Royal Albert Hall, also attended by Prince William and his wife Kate. Cuaron thanked Netflix for “having the courage” to get behind his film as he picked up the gong, adding that its success “in an age where fear and anger are proposed to divide us means the world to me”.
Roma portrays domestic strife and social hierarchy amid political turmoil and focuses on a housekeeper and nanny called Cleo, played by indigenous actress Yalitza Aparicio. Netflix UK tweeted its congratulations, saying it was a “deeply moving film and deserves all the love it’s getting”. Roma is up for best picture at the Oscars — Netflix’s first-ever nomination which has propelled it into the Hollywood club of elite film-makers. While the online service has gradually been welcomed at most major film festivals, Tinseltown’s red carpet is not fully rolled out, with cinemas up in arms about its position as a distribution king attracting A-list stars.
After the Oscar nominations were announced, theatre mega-chains AMC and Regal — the top two in America by far — said Roma would not be screened in their annual best-picture showcases. In all, Roma was shown in around 900 theatres worldwide — more than any other Netflix film, but far short of a usual big release. Netflix never released any box office data. While Netflix has made some good-faith efforts to gain Hollywood’s acceptance, it only waited three weeks after the theatre release of Roma to make it available on its platform, far less than the 90 days that cinema owners ask studios to hold back.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019