Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma today became the tenth Mexican film to earn a nomination for Best Motion Picture in a Foreign Language since the country’s first nomination at the 15th edition of the awards in 1958. Only Ismael Rodríguez’s indigenous drama Tizoc, also Mexico’s first nominee, has won the award. Cuarón, meanwhile, is the seventh Mexican director nominated in this category.
Tizoc, starring iconic actors María Félix and Pedro Infante, tells the story of a white woman who enters into a romance with a Mexican indigenous man. The racial barriers between the lovers prove to be insurmountable, resulting in tragedy.
Rodríguez was nominated again in 1962 for his drama Ánimas Trujano, about a cheerful but irresponsible indigenous man in a small Mexican village who hopes to be someday chosen mayordomo of his village, a role of great honor usually conferred upon the wealthiest and most respected citizens. Ánimas has a loyal wife, but cheats on her and gambles away every cent they earn. Chances arise for Ánimas to turn over a new leaf and even have a realistic chance for the honor of mayordomo. But will Ánimas behave responsibly enough to take advantage of these opportunities?
The third Mexican Golden Globes nominee was Luis Arcoriza’s Tarahumara (Always Further On) in 1966, about a worker of the Mexican Indigenist Institute who tries to help the Tarahumara community to protect and keep their lands, but he must face corrupt landowners and politicians.
Mexico had to wait more than 25 years for its next Golden Globes nomination, which came for Alfonso Arau’s Like Water for Chocolate. A period piece set during Mexico’s revolution, the film follows Tita and Pedro, who fall in love but are forbidden to marry. Mama Elena sees Tita's role as her caretaker for life—no youngest daughter has ever married, and her daughter will not be the first to break tradition. Tita's heart breaks when her mother offers her other daughter to Pedro and he accepts. Now they live in the same house, and Mama Elena cannot forbid their love as she did their marriage.
Alejandro González Iñárritu has been nominated twice with a Mexican production: in 2001 for the drama Amores Perros, in which a horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life's harsh realities, all in the name of love; and then in 2011 for the Spanish co-production Biutiful, which tells the story of Uxbal, a man living in this world, but able to see his death, which guides his every move.
With Rodríguez and González Iñárritu, Cuarón became the third Mexican director to repeat a Golden Globes nomination after his road movie and coming-of-age story Y Tu Mamá También, about two teenage boys taking a road trip with an older woman, was nominated in 2002. When teenagers Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) meet the alluring, older Luisa (Maribel Verdu) at a wedding, they try to impress her with stories of a road trip to a secret beach and ultimately convince her to come with them. What follows is an escapade involving seduction, conflict, and the harsh realities of poverty set in 1999 against the backdrop of the political and economic realities of modern-day Mexico.
One year later, Carlos Carrera was nominated for his film The Crime Amaro. The movie tells the story of young Father Amaro (Gael García Bernal). He is sent to Mexico to help take care of aging Father Benito when he meets a 16-year-old girl with whom he has an affair. It turns out the girl’s mother had been having an affair with Father Benito, and the Amaro must soon choose between the holy or the sinful life.
Guillermo del Toro nabbed a nomination for the Spanish co-production Pan’s Labyrinth, set in the Falangist Spain of 1944, about a bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer who escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.