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Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma Effect: When Art Meets Activism

On the stage of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019, the globally awarded Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón discussed how his groundbreaking film Roma became a platform of social change.

The drama, which won a whopping number of three academy awards for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director, sheds the light on the socio-economic issues of domestic workers. A population that has poor labor protection rights and constitutes a global count of 70 million.

Roma transcended a work of audiovisual art and become a message that sparked policy and law change through what has come to be known as the Roma Effect. But what is the so-called Roma Effect? And how did it come to be?

According to the panelists, the Roma effect can be defined as the union of creativity, empathy and social impact that leads to change. It is a creative project which achieved decades of progress. And while the film is set in the 1970s the social problems remain the same to this day.

Alfonso explained that his creative process involved looking back at his life and trying to figure out who he was and where he came from. A pillar of the film was his relationship with the domestic worker at his home and whom he considers as a second mother.

The domestic workforce takes care of the weakest population of the society; be it children or the elderly. It’s a daily mission that makes every other job possible. For all is facilitated when an individual is assured that his/her most valued person is being taken care of. However, this growing group still earns below poverty wages, often works far from their own families, and will not be replaced by robots anytime soon.

As for the social activism generated from the film, Alfonso said: “If you have something that you consider has a certain purity you want to take care of it. And I found the right team to transform my art into social action and activism.” From the very beginning, at the stage of the promotional campaign, everything seemed to be in sync with Roma because the main selling point of the film was its social activism, he added.

Good story telling implements itself in people’s memories and drives them into action. But above all honesty is the success agent. A person can sense when something is not genuine, and with the rise of social media it has become impossible to cover dishonesty. While consumers still appreciate luxury, they now want to do the right thing before anything else.