February 25, 2019 / 3:54 PM / 6 months ago

Mexican leader knocks racism at home after 'Roma' Oscar wins

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president on Monday denounced racism in his country a day after the Mexican film “Roma” emerged as a big winner at the Academy Awards with a plot that highlighted prejudice and inequality.

91st Academy Awards - Oscars Governors Ball - Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2019. Alfonso Cuaron with his Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography awards for "Roma." REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron won the best director Oscar on Sunday for his semi-autobiographical film “Roma,” which told the story of an indigenous domestic worker who cares for a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.

The movie also won awards for best foreign language film and cinematography, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador fielded several questions about “Roma” at his regular morning press conference.

Asked if he agreed with Cuaron that Mexican society remains rife with racist prejudice, the veteran leftist did not mince his words.

“I completely agree. Unfortunately, there is a lot of racism in Mexico,” he said.

Lopez Obrador, who in the 1970s worked for the indigenous affairs bureau in his home state of Tabasco in southern Mexico, has pledged to give priority to the poor as president.

Cuaron noted that the film emphasized the divided nature of Mexico’s social structure, opening up a much-needed discussion on racism and domestic worker rights.

“It’s a moment in which the country has recognized itself as a racist country,” he said at an event in Los Angeles last week.

In his acceptance speech, he thanked the Academy for recognizing a movie centered around an indigenous woman, saying her character represents the “70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights.”

Lopez Obrador admitted that he has yet to see the movie, but said he will do so soon. He added that the success of “Roma” has become a source of pride for many Mexicans.

Named for the neighborhood in the Mexican capital where it is set, “Roma” stars Yalitza Aparicio as a maid named Cleo who becomes pregnant as she looks after a family with four children just as the parents are splitting up.

While cheers echoed through Roma when the film began collecting Oscars on Sunday, revelers were disappointed when Aparicio did not win the Best Actress award, the first indigenous woman to be nominated for the honor.

Reactions to her performance sparked a testing debate in Mexico over discrimination faced by darker-skinned indigenous or mixed-race Mexicans, a topic often relegated to the sidelines of political discussions in the country.

Reporting by Diego Ore, David Alire Garcia and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dave Graham and Marguerita Choy

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