Alfonso Cuarón won the Best Cinematography Oscar on Sunday night for “Roma,” a film he also wrote and directed. The black and white Netflix film is semi-autobiographical, based on Cuarón’s childhood memories growing up in Mexico City in the 1970s and the life of his family’s indigenous live-in maid played by Yalitza Aparicio.
Cuarón had won two Oscars prior to tonight’s Academy Awards — Best Director and Best Film Editing (shared with Mark Sanger) for his 2013 film “Gravity.” While Cuarón is hardly the first to do double duty as director and cinematographer on a film, he is the first to win the Best Cinematography Oscar for a film he also directed.
The “Roma” director has always worked with his friend and long-time collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki – who has won three Academy Awards, including one for “Gravity” – who helped prep “Roma,” but ultimately had to walk away from shooting the film when its production schedule ballooned to 110 days and conflicted with the DoP’s prior commitments.
Cuarón came into the evening with four nominations for “Roma,” including Best Director, while as a producer on the film he is also up for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language film. He also served as screenwriter and co-editor on his most personal film to date, but was not nominated in those categories.
After nominee Lukasz Zal won The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) award for his work on “Cold War,” the category looked to be a match-up of the two black and white films, with the high profile “Roma” director being the heavy favorite with a larger pool of Academy voters. Also nominated were Matthew Libatique for “A Star Is Born,” Robbie Ryan for “The Favourite,” and the surprise nominee Caleb Deschanel for “Never Look Away.”
In addition to a director winning Best Cinematography, this was an unusual year for the category which is normally loaded with veteran cinematographers with multiple prior nominations. Four of the five 2019 nominees were first-timers, with only Libatique having received a prior nomination in 2011 for “Black Swan,” while Zal had been a co-nominee for “Ida” in 2015.
The 91st Academy Awards took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, February 25. The host-less show aired on ABC.