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[THE OSCARS] | MEXICO CITY

Bittersweet night for Mexican film

February 26, 2007|Reed Johnson | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — MILLIONS were glued to their TV sets here last night, screaming, crying and cheering on the hometown favorites. So much for the Mexico-Costa Rica soccer match.

Those watching the Oscar telecast were a bit less impassioned, despite the large number of Mexicans up for awards. But there was evident pride in what Mexican filmmaking talent achieved last year, mixed with hope for what those achievements might portend. "It's about prestige, the chance to bring Mexican cinema to a world level," said Nicolas Oropeza Baez, 47, watching the Oscar telecast at his newsstand on Insurgentes Avenue. "It's going to create more proposals for movies here in Mexico."

Ever since the Oscar nominations were announced, Mexicans have been subjected to a daily blizzard of coverage of their country's candidates. Much of it has a patriotic, even nationalistic, flavor.

The recent prizewinning success of Mexican filmmakers, particularly of directors Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, has restored a measure of good feeling to Mexicans who had endured a year filled with drug-related killings and a disputed presidential election.

Last night was a bittersweet climax. Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" won awards for cinematography, makeup and art direction but lost the best foreign film trophy to Germany's "The Lives of Others." Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," nominated for seven Oscars, managed to secure only one award, for best original score. Cuaron's "Children of Men" failed to capture the best adapted screenplay prize, losing to "The Departed." Adriana Barraza, who played a distraught Mexican nanny in "Babel," couldn't overcome Jennifer Hudson of "Dreamgirls" as best supporting actress. Still, for some, it was important simply that their national film talent had received so much recognition, especially at time when the movie business here is in the doldrums.

Fernando Munoz, 28, a valet watching the show on a wobbly TV while parking cars, rated the recognition not quite as significant as the performance of Mexico's beloved national soccer team. "But it's important," he said, for Mexico "to be known" and gain the world's respect.

Max Dominguez, a lawyer, said that despite its rich culture, Mexico suffers from "an inferiority complex" in the arts. "Mexico many times thinks it has limited ability." But, he said, "it's an opportunity for Latinos to enter into an industry [filmmaking] that has been closed to them."

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reed.johnson@latimes.com

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