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Tuesday , December 7 2021

Alfonso Cuaron sets his sights on major Oscar record

Tokyo Fest says it’s listening to women

LOS ANGELES, Oct 27, (RTRS): Despite waves of critical adulation in the wake of its Venice Film Festival premiere two months ago, Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film “Roma” – the director’s most personal work to date – admittedly has a few on-paper hurdles to clear on its way to potential Oscar glory.

First, it’s a foreign-language film; only 10 such films have landed best picture nominations in the Academy’s 90-year history, the most recent being Michael Haneke’s “Amour” six years ago. Second, it’s a Netflix film; the streaming giant is still seeking its first bid in the category, in the face of many who view it as the enemy. And figuring in the mighty actors branch, the Academy’s largest group, there are no well-known performers in the film – in fact, it’s largely populated with non-actors and newcomers.

Cuaron himself even faces a notable challenge in the cinematography race; the branch has never nominated a filmmaker who served as his or her own director of photography.

Those are the challenges, yet “Roma”, by many estimates the year’s finest film, still feels like the hearty, across-the-board contender it should be, i.e., it’s poised to shift some of the governing awards-season logic. Eight or nine nominations are well within its grasp.

But the headline is this: Alfonso Cuaron has a shot at tying Walt Disney’s all-time record for most nominations by an individual in a single year.

Not only that, but while Disney pulled his 1954 haul from six separate movies, Cuaron is poised to do so for a single motion picture. That would obliterate the record of four shared by Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait” and “Reds”), Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”). In fact, only one other person besides Disney has ever received more than four nominations in the same year: Francis Ford Coppola picked up three for “The Godfather Part II” and a pair for “The Conversation” in 1974.

Assured

As producer, director, screenwriter, cinematographer and editor of “Roma,” Cuaron seems assured Academy mentions for most if not all disciplines he tackled on the film. Meanwhile, recent rules have spread the love within the foreign-language film category from merely the country represented to the director behind the work as well. So all told, Cuaron’s name could reasonably be expected in the Oscar record books alongside a titan of the industry very shortly.

And if indeed the cinematographers let him onto the field of play (it would be an asinine snub), he could quickly become the odds-on favorite there. After winning directing and film editing Oscars for “Gravity” five years ago, adding a cinematography prize to the mantle would add the exclamation point: He’s one of the most accomplished filmmakers working today, hitting milestones few are likely to reach.

The season only just got started, so who knows what fate awaits Cuaron and his film. But the possibilities sure are eye-popping at the outset.

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LOS ANGELES: Calls for greater female representation and advancement are being made loudly in the West, and latterly in Japan. The Tokyo International Film Festival claims to be listening.

Major film festivals have long been male-dominated, with relatively few women among the top ranks of festival directors, programmers and, in the competition sections, filmmakers.

Tokyo is no exception: All of its directors as well as nearly all of its head programmers have been men since its start in 1985. Women filmmakers have appeared in its competition and other major sections, but the gender balance on this year’s program still skews heavily male.

TIFF director Takeo Hisamatsu voices his support for women’s participation in both the festival but the industry as a whole. “I have been seeking out the views of both my female staff and industry professionals,” he says. “It’s an issue of deep concern to me and I am trying to find answers for what we can do as an international film festival.”

TIFF programming director Yoshi Yatabe insists that there are “no gender borders” in the selection process. But he acknowledges that: “When women directors are in an environment that hinders their filmmaking, that is definitely a problem we have to address.”

Yatabe points to “21st Century Girls”, an omnibus film screening in this year’s Japanese Cinema Splash section, as an example of TIFF’s support. Director and producer U-ki Yamato is a woman, as are the 14 young directors contributing to the project. “I was greatly moved by (Yamato’s) stance and selected ‘21st Century Girl’ as a special screening,” he said.

Currently, the head programmers of all TIFF’s main sections are male, but Yatabe notes that his two predecessors were women, as are many of the programmers working with him. “They are programmers I trust, who happen to be women,” he says. “I don’t respect their opinions just because of their sex.”

A woman on the TIFF staff who asked to remain anonymous commented that “There is no gender gap between the men and women programming for TIFF – there may in fact be more women.” “By extension, I believe there is no need for special treatment of women,” she added.

But she also noted that many of the female staffers at TIFF are working under “unstable conditions” – meaning temporary contracts rather than full-time employment.

Another female staffer explained that “TIFF tries to find talented filmmakers. They don’t apply the filter of gender. All that matters is the quality of the finished film and the talent of its creator.”

Another private sector executive, who previously had a long association with TIFF, points to the historical paucity of women in the festival’s top programming ranks. “TIFF never thought of nurturing or focusing on women’s power,” she told Variety. But the problem goes deeper. “The Japanese industry as a whole, should hire more women in executive positions, under fair conditions. And provide better workplaces for working women, with a job, family and kids.”

 

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