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Mexican director wins Oscar but some of his peers at home are unimpressed

The space drama “Gravity” won seven Oscars at last Sunday’s 86th Academy Awards, including best director for Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron, the first Latin American to be bestowed with such an honor.

While many in the south-of-the-border film community are pleased for the talented movie maker, there is an underlying frustration that success for a few Mexican directors in Hollywood does nothing to ease the problems Mexican-made films face in getting wider distribution both at home and in the United States.

Along with Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Cuaron forms a triumvirate of dynamic Mexican directors who are highly regarded by corporate big-shots in Los Angeles and New York. Backers are willing to dig deep into their pockets to fund their cinematic endeavors, with “Gravity” costing over 100 million dollars and del Toro’s last feature, “Pacific Rim,” reportedly costing 190 million.

Such astronomical numbers can create resentment back home. Although President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted his pride at Cuaron’s accomplishment on Sunday, there were others who minimized the Oscar, noting that Cuaron now lives abroad and makes films on themes unrelated to Mexican culture and, worse still, that exclude homegrown movies from this country’s cinema screens.

None of this should take away anything from Cuaron’s achievement. Set during a fictitious space shuttle mission, “Gravity” has rightly been lauded for its stunning special effects.  Cuaron’s genius, say many of his peers, was not just to orchestrate a groundbreaking and visually stunning space movie, but create an engrossing dramatic environment that always managed to remain – in the eyes of the layman, at least – unsettlingly realistic.

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