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Roma director Cuarón. Roma director Cuarón.

Mexican film Roma front-runner for Oscars after Toronto festival

But will the Academy go for a film with limited theatrical distribution?

After winning the top award at the Venice Film Festival and receiving a rousing reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s new film Roma has emerged as a clear front-runner for the next Academy Awards.

The film, according to The Washington Post, has all the characteristics of a strong contender, including “great reviews, sumptuous photography,” an Oscar-winning director, great performances by non-actors and “insights into race, class, feminism and United States-Mexican relations.”

But Roma also has one big problem, The Post said: Netflix, rather than a big established studio, is distributing it.

That fact provides Hollywood, which votes on the Oscars, with a conundrum: should it reward a deserving film regardless of where it appears, or should it favor a movie from a traditional distributor to cater to fears about its own obsolescence?

“This is a big moment — for Netflix but also for the film business,” an unidentified Hollywood agent told The Post. “If Roma can’t win, Netflix can never win.”

The global streaming service has a deep desire for industry recognition but paradoxically it opposes broad theatrical releases — the means via which that recognition traditionally comes.

Netflix appears set to only allow Roma to have a limited exclusive theatrical release, qualifying it for contention in the Oscars, before it will also be made available on its online platform.

So if Roma is able to win the Academy Award for best picture, “it will show that many Oscar voters are willing to let the old ways die,” The Post said.

Cuarón, who won the best director Oscar for Gravity in 2013, pitched Roma to the production company Participant Media, which financed the film and later sold the worldwide distribution rights to Netflix.

Set in Mexico City in the 1970s, the Spanish-language black-and-white film explores Cuarón’s childhood memories and is centered around two indigenous domestic workers who take care of a small family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma.

Film industry analysts quoted by The Post were skeptical about the chances of Roma winning an Oscar with only a token theatrical release.

One unidentified consultant said “oh, they care, believe me,” when asked if voters would opt against the film if it doesn’t have a substantive cinema run.

In turn, Cuarón said Netflix was being treated unfairly in the debate.

“Everyone focuses on Netflix but no one looks at the other side: the exhibitors [theater owners]” he said.

“They’re living in the ’90s. They need to be in the present.”

Source: The Washington Post (en) 

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