New York – Make room for Mexiwood, the second installment of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema is here.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s feat Sunday night, when he became the first one in nearly 70 years to take home back-to-back Oscars for best director, is just the tip of an iceberg that has been making its way up since the 1990s and now seems to have found solid foundation in Hollywood territory.
Two years ago, it was another Mexican who received the top directing award – Alonso Cuaron with “Gravity” – following in a trend started years before by fellow Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"), a pioneer who has not been awarded an Oscar yet.
“Mr. Alejandro Iñárritu, as the history of cinema unfolds, you have forged your way into history these past 2 years,” a grateful Leonardo DiCaprio said to the Mexican director as he was receiving his long-awaited Academy Award for best actor in “The Revenant.”
“Thank you for creating a transcendent cinematic experience,” he added.
Also history-making was the first-ever third award in a row given to a cinematographer, Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, whose work with light and textures made “Revenant” an unforgettable experience for many, as were “Gravity” and “Birdman.”
Felix Sanchez, co-founder and chairman of the National Hispanic Federation of the Arts, notes that this new wave of Mexican filmmakers began telling stories in tune with their communities and with growing success have incorporated into “official Hollywood.”
“With films like ‘Y tu mama tambien,’ they gave us a real insight into a Mexican narrative,” he told Fox News Latino on Monday. “Their early success propelled them to expand their vision and artistry and we celebrate the fact that they have incorporated into official Hollywood.”
He added: “They key to their success is artistry, hard work, creativity and perseverance.”
All four, who were born in the early 1960s, came of age professionally in Mexico and achieved their initial fame in their native country. They were part of a group of filmmakers that devoured mainstream Hollywood movies as well as works by foreign independent directors.
Jose Antonio Valdes, deputy for information and special projects at Mexico’s governmental film institute, the Cineteca Nacional, referred to them recently as the “head of a generation that demarcated a before and after in Mexican cinema.”
“They come from a generation that has a different mentality, where the idea of global filmmaker was already a reality, and I think we are seeing that now,” he told the Associated Press. “Mexican filmmakers no longer think in terms of Mexico. They think globally.”
In 1991 Cuarón put out the popular romantic comedy "Solo con Tu Pareja" ("Alone With Your Partner"), with cinematography by Lubezki, which was honored with two Ariel awards — the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars. Del Toro's "La Invención de Cronos" (released in the U.S. as "Cronos") in 1993 won nine Ariels. Lubezki won Ariels for 1992's "Como Agua Para Chocolate" ("Like Water for Chocolate"), "Miroslava" (1993) and "Ambar" (1994).
Iñárritu's debut came later — the widely hailed "Amores Perros" of 2000. It captivated moviegoers with its innovative storytelling to become the first Mexican movie since 1975 to be nominated for the best foreign-language film Oscar.
Cuarón followed up the next year with "Y Tu Mamá También" ("And Your Mother, Too") and earn him Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
"They all were already very clear that they wanted to make movies, and real movies," Daniela Michel, director general of the Morelia International Film Festival, told the AP. "They were going against the current, because in Mexico we were being told that cinema was dead."
The four filmmakers moved on to Hollywood with great success, particularly Iñarritu after 2003’s “21 Grams,” followed shortly by “Babel” and “Biutiful.”
“They are clearly becoming the directors that everyone wants to work with and there is a double-edged sword,” Sanchez said, “because how much of their artistry should be responsible for showing the Latino condition? They no longer have boundaries so they may or may not choose to show the Latino stories and that’s their right – to be truthful to their creativity.”
That said, there are some who hope they would do just a little more to put the Latino narrative or characters in the limelight. They have been criticized for forgetting their roots and no longer making Mexican films – instead concentrating on big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.
"They have become a source of pride for Mexico, but they are not really doing Mexican cinema; they are making Hollywood movies," John Hecht, the Mexican correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter, told the GlobalPost.
Others say they hope that the directors don't forget where they came from and do more to help up-and-coming filmmakers.
“I just want them to do more,” Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition told FNL. “I mind that they are not bringing American Latinos into their films or that they are not helping young filmmakers. It’s not just the Oscar wins. I want them to do more.”