Published On: Mon, Mar 3rd, 2014

Alfonso Cuaron, first Latin American to win the Oscar for Best Director

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Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron won the Oscar for best director on Sunday for the space thriller “Gravity” in which an astronaut fights for survival after being cut loose from her space shuttle.

It was the first Academy Award for Cuaron, whose film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney mixed dazzling special effects, suspense and human drama.

Cuaron is the first Latin American director to take the top filmmaking prize.

The Mexican director, 52, was the fourth Latin American to be nominated in this Oscar category, following Hector Babenco (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”), Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”).

The Oscar also offers a personal vindication of sorts for Cuaron, who before “Gravity” had not made a movie since 2006’s dystopian thriller “Children of Men” and who waited years on “Gravity” for financing and technological issues to be sorted out. The win follows Cuaron’s triumph in the same category at the Directors Guild of America’s annual prizes.

Cuaron took the stage and, acknowledging the years it took to make the movie, said, “For a lot of these people [who worked on the film], the transformation was wisdom; for me, it was the color of my hair.” He also thanked the “wise guys” at Warner Bros — current and past administrations at the studio who oversaw the film.

Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón

Starring Sandra Bullock as a scientist marooned in space, “Gravity” was the biggest box office success of the five directorial nominees, taking in $270 million in the U.S. and an additional $434 million overseas.

It was Cuaron’s first nomination in the director category; he had been nominated for the screenplays for “Children of Men” and the coming-of-age drama “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” and he also landed an editing nomination for “Children of Men.”

Alfonso Cuarón was born in Mexico City, and is the son of Alfredo Cuarón, a nuclear physicist who worked for the United Nations’International Atomic Energy Agency for many years. He has two brothers, Carlos, also a filmmaker, and Alfredo, a conservation biologist.

Cuarón studied Philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and filmmaking at CUEC (Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos), a faculty of the same University. There, he met director Carlos Marcovich and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and they made what would be his first short film, Vengeance Is Mine.

The controversy caused by the fact that the film was shot in English was not the reason he was expelled from the film school; the reason was that he did not get the authorization to commercialize his film, of which he decided to drop out.

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