Alfonso Cuarón and More Upset Netflix Offers ‘Roma’ Subtitles in Spain: ‘It’s Very Offensive’

"One of the things I most enjoy is the colour and texture of other accents," Cuarón told El País on the issue.
Best director honoree Alfonso Cuaron attends the New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Tao Downtown, in New York2019 Film Critics Circle Awards, New York, USA - 07 Jan 2019
Alfonso Cuaron
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

[Update, January 10]: Following backlash from Cuarón and others, Netflix has dropped the “European Spanish” subtitles from “Roma” in Spain. The streaming giant has replaced the subtitles with an option for European Spanish closed captions.

Earlier: Alfonso Cuarón has been singing Netflix’s praises throughout awards season, calling the streaming giant the perfect platform to maximize the amount of people who can see his black-and-white, Spanish-Language drama “Roma.” Netflix even broke with tradition and gave “Roma” an exclusive theatrical release three weeks before the movie became available online around the world. But if Cuarón has one bone to pick about the film’s international release it’s the use of Iberian-Spanish subtitles in Spain.

As reported by The Guardian (via Spanish news agency Efe), Cuarón spoke out on the matter by saying, “I think it’s very offensive to the Spanish public that they’ve given ‘Roma’ Iberian-Spanish subtitles.”

In an additional interview with El País, the Oscar-winning filmmaker got more blunt on the matter. “It’s parochial, ignorant and offensive to Spaniards themselves,” Cuarón wrote. “One of the things I most enjoy is the colour and texture of other accents. It’s as if Almodóvar needs to be subtitled.”

“Roma” features a combination of Mexican-Spanish dialogue and Mixtec. While there are key differences between Mexican Spanish and Iberian Spanish, mainly accents and colloquialisms, the director appears to be arguing they aren’t so different that Spanish audiences wouldn’t be able to understand the use of Mexican-Spanish dialogue in “Roma.” Mexican author Jordi Soler said as much on Twitter when he called Netflix’s use of Iberian-Spanish subtitles “paternalistic, offensive, and profoundly provincial.”

Solder added as an example, “To top it all off, when they say ‘mamá’ [mum], the subtitles say ‘madre’ [mother].”

Francisco Javier Pérez, the secretary general of the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language (ASALE), agrees with Cuarón and Solder on the matter. Pérez told El País the subtitles in Spain make “no sense” and are “unnecessary,” saying, “There are regional voices, colloquialisms, some of which are known and others are not, but in no case prevent us from understanding what we are seeing. You even get subtitles equal to what is said, so the nonsense is double.”

Cuarón recently won the Golden Globe for Best Director, and was awarded the same prize, plus Best Cinematography and Best Picture, at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. “Roma” is now streaming globally on Netflix. IndieWire has reached out to the streaming giant for further comment.

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