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Why Is 'Roma' In Black & White? The Foreign-Language Favorite Brings You Back To Another Era

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Award-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Roma, which arrives on Netflix on Friday, Dec. 14, has an intriguing aesthetic. The Spanish-language film, which made its debut at the Venice International Film Festival in Aug. 2018, has received much critical acclaim and early praise, both for its style and its story. But some might be wondering why Roma is in black and white.

The drama, which is loosely based on the filmmaker’s own life growing up in Mexico City in the early 1970s, sees Cuarón take on as many roles as he usually does. Many may know the esteemed creator for directing films such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the global franchise, but he also often writes and edits his own projects (as he did with the 2006 dystopian thriller Children of Men, and sometimes producers as well — as was the case with Y Tu Mamá También, the first film of his that was ever nominated for an Oscar, and 2013’s Gravity, which earned him the Best Director Academy Award that year.

However, Roma is an even more personal project for Cuarón, and, for the first time, he was his own cinematographer. Cuarón frequently works with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who has earned his own Oscars for films such as Birdman and The Revenant. Without Lubezki this time around, Cuarón opted for a different look. According to IndieWire, Roma was shot in color, but then edited in post-production. So you don’t see the color in the final product, but they use it to determine what will be lighter and what will be darker. The monochromatic look was done precisely to create a look that emulates the way a person would really see it.

Cuarón made the decision to create a black and white film for a number of reasons. One such reason is because most of what you see is coming directly from the filmmaker’s memory and recalls a time in the past. “It sets a mood and an ambiance that’s evocative of memory by taking full advantage of modern technology. It’s a very nice combination of the clarity and the recollection,” said Steve Scott from Technicolor, the company he worked with during the post-production process.

The film is already getting a lot of Oscar buzz, specifically in the foreign language film category. In recent years, more and more films that receive only a limited theatrical release before jumping to a streaming service have been in the running for major awards. If Roma, a Netflix original by the streamer’s definition, takes home a big prize, maybe this will finally convince the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the ways in which people take in content have really and truly changed. If (probably when) this black-and-white masterpiece, which is by most measures pure Academy bait, secures a trophy, it could mark more than just a win for Cuarón, but for all creators.

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