Why Roma deserves the Oscar?

Is not about Trump, racism or something like that here. Is not about other films. Roma is something to see if you lived in Mexico City in the sixties and seventies. Mexico city as almost all Latin America was a background of the U.S. Military Forces. That is why the military took place in the film. That is why the run of the military. Even though, Roma is something about life itself. It’s not a film to document June 10 or state repression, that’s its context. It’s not an autobiographical film, although half of everything is memories of Cuarón himself, the other half are memories of the original, real lullaby, Libo. It is not a historical film, because it is neither a political denunciation nor an explicit discursive denunciation. All the absences, supposed failures, or incompleteness, start from the misunderstanding of the film that others wanted and not the one they are presenting us with.

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The film is obviously not feminist, but there is an interclass moment where women meet: that despised dialogue of the patroness where we know she has realized that she has been abandoned and that just like the maid, she has been used. But the latter is silent, she is silent, that complicity and possible solidarity between women does not come to fruition, the class separates them: the former has a voice, can express itself, the latter is normalized, has been educated to be silent. Although they could console each other, in reality, there is an abyss that separates them. There is sorority but it is blocked by the class. It is a film of high contrast not because it is in black and white, but because the intimate comfort of the house is opposed by the hubbub of the big city; the privilege of the country house is opposed by the subterranean of the pulque full of people from below; the house in the colony Rome is opposed by Neza and its muddy and miserable houses. The main house is opposed by the small room of the maids, the only place where they laugh, play in their own language, relatively far and safe from the bosses, as well as moments of happiness with the child, of complicity, where there is a loving and maternal relationship.

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That forgotten scene is something truly important to Mexican’s contemporary history: 1968. This is the story that is remembered every year during the anniversary of the massacre. But little is said about the social and political environment in the country during those years, which motivated the accelerated growth of the 1968 student movement. A moment that also explains the strong reaction of the government of then-President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. From the 1950s and the following decade, the country registered a series of movements of doctors, railroaders, electricians, peasants and students. In all cases, the protests were dissolved by police and military. The critics don’t see that history because they ignore the history of U.S. Military intervention on Latin America. The film, it is a very simple story because the life of the dominated takes place in a languid daily life, but full of oppression and, above all, of loneliness. It is not surprising that many are not surprised, perhaps because they do not listen to the silence of the protagonist and everything she has to say. It is a story of sadness because the voice of the subordinates is not heard, despite the fact that we see, feel, their own drama and domination.

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If we use this film to found a critic of everyday life. Reversing the postulate then put forward by Foucault in Surveillance and Punishment, Michel de Certeau rejects the thesis that individuals are passive and dispossessed beings and cannot resolve to consider the masses as a homogeneous whole. Rather, rather than their supposed inactivity, he puts forward their creative function, which would be hidden in a set of daily practices, which he calls tricks, and which would oppose the strategies of people in power or aspiring to access them. These subtle tricks, which cannot be detected by the authorities, would take place in common places. Through what he calls a “space practice”, the individual is able to compose his own space from fragments of meaning “poached” on both sides. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did almost by herself.

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Michel de Certeau equates producers of meaning with landowners who have the power to impose meaning on cultural goods, on consumers, through the regulation of uses and access. He then compared consumers to poachers. On these lands that do not belong to them, but on which they live, individuals weave through the meshes of the imposed network, collect what they consider relevant and compose their daily lives through their walking and a collection of fragments. Landlords, therefore, develop strategies, space control actions to trap the dominated who, in turn, carry out acts of resistance (e. g., zapping, clearing) consisting of micro-freedoms in the face of power, re-appropriation of this network imposed on the consumer, through “tricks” or “procedures”.

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Michel de Certeau thus elaborates, in parallel to the theorization of Michel Foucault’s panoptic system, surveillance and control “from the top” of society, a theory of resistance tactics to the field of the other, subversion but from within and from the very base of the system. If those who write seem to impose their power on those who say and do, Certeau clearly shows that audiences are not so dominated and remain active in front of the reception of the messages sent to them, with critical paroxysms when the “saying” deviates too much from the “doing” (multiplication of mystical episodes of the eighteenth century; speech of May 1968; liberation theology in South America, to cite the fields in which he was more particularly involved).

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A section of L’invention du Quotidien is also dedicated to the act of reading, which, according to Michel de Certeau, adopts the same mode of operation as that of poaching. The reading responds to the author’s obvious act of death, by an active selection by the reader. Just like the poacher who collects fragments to forge his daily life, the reader selects fragments that allow him to update the literary work.

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When the Massacre of Corpus Thursday the director was 10 years old and claims to remember both the next day’s photographs in the newspapers and the awareness at that age that the political class was corrupt. According to Cuarón, in the film people observe the attack from the furniture store where the plot of the film implies the fiction that Cleo and his grandmother were observing the facts, a situation with which “in my imagination as a child I imagined myself seeing that atrocity”, and the historical fact marked the author forever when he made him reflect on the situation that Mexico was living and how the country worked. For these scenes and for all those where members of the paramilitary group Los Halcones appeared, the director decided to make clear the responsibility in the events of the then president Luis Echeverría Álvarez. Therefore, his image and name appear in the places where the attackers trained (initials L.E.A. made with stones in a hill) and in the scene itself in San Cosme (political propaganda).13 For these events, Cuarón resorted to a documentary investigation that included the newspapers of the time and the testimonies of the surviving people.

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The shooting took place with dozens of extras in the exact place where the events took place between January 22 and 23, 2017 in Mexico-Tacuba roadway and the streets Tláloc and Lauro Aguirre. The vicinity of the area was completely closed for two days, after which the production apologized to the entire population for the inconvenience caused.

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At about the same time, this analysis of mass culture can be found in Edgar Morin (in L’Esprit du temps, 1962) in France, or in Richard Hoggart (The Uses of Literacy, 1957; translated into French as La Culture du pauvre, 1970) and Stuart Hall in Great Britain (Encodage, decoding, 1977). Certeau contributed to the development of the study of “media-cultures” in France, which was then neglected, and his contribution was later taken up by Éric Maigret and Éric Macé (in Penser les médiacultures, 2005).

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These approaches have also been appropriated by cultural history, notably by modernist historians Daniel Roche, Roger Chartier, and Christian Jacob (in his reflection on places of knowledge). But it was mainly in the United States, where he taught, and where microhistory could flourish in the counter-cultural movement, that his work immediately met with very strong reception. For each one of us, the world is the one we live with others, with others; nothing less than the implacable interplay of the human being and his universe.

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We say that to each social organization and to each historical epoch corresponds a specific and concrete type of daily life, which is usually prey to traditions and customs that we do not question. It also implies a reiteration of actions in a daily distribution of time; a reality that is in a continuous change and movement of such magnitude that it usually invites us to a permanent non-reflection. The uncritical acceptance of given norms and values make what we social psychologists call passive adaptation to reality. That’s why Roma deserves the Oscar because is a film about us, behind the scenes. A masterpiece of modern cinema.

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