Cuaron’s Oscar nod leaves Mexico soul searching

MEXICO CITY – The Oscars could be Mexico’s big night, with three Mexicans nominated for directing, cinematography and acting.

Except that some in Mexico aren’t looking at it that way.

Despite feeble cries of “Viva Mexico!” by some politicians and celebrities for the best-director nomination of Alfonso Cuaron, many here see “Gravity” as a non-Mexican movie made by a man swallowed by Hollywood long ago – not as a product of Mexico’s own proud but struggling film industry.

“To say that ‘Gravity’ is a Mexican achievement is like saying that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was a Polish one,” said Mexican filmmaker Arturo Ripstein, referring to director Roman Polanski’s masterpiece.

In a speech at an award ceremony earlier this week, Ripstein instead urged moviegoers to defend Mexican films that portray the country’s culture and realities, rather than feeling proud of those who succeed by leaving the country and working in another language.

The same can be said for the two other nominees Sunday. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including now for “Gravity,” but always for non-Mexican-themed movies. And Lupita Nyong’o, Hollywood’s new sensation for her work in “12 Years a Slave,’ happened to be born in Mexico City but lived there less than a year and grew up in her native Kenya.

But the Mexican soul-searching centers mainly on Cuaron, who made the lost-in-space odyssey that has been applauded as a sci-fi breakthrough because of its extraordinary special effects. Before that, he had directed many international films, including “The Little Princess,” ”Children of Men” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”