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Middleburg Opening Nite: Yalitza Aparicio and "Roma"

by Nathaniel R

with Yalitza Aparicio on opening nightThe Film Experience's beloved annual trip to the Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia got off to a late start. Flight delays and airport mix-ups and the like but a happy result: the Lyft driver was very chatty and wanted movie recommendations. I was happy to oblige since it wasn't just small talk but actual cinephilia! She wanted to know if I'd ever seen Woman in the Dunes and Hereditary. C'mon Double Feature! 

By the time I arrived at the opening night film, Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, it was already halfway over. As you know we've already seen and loved, but I watched from the back of the house as it was a sold-out house. Who knows how many chances any of us will have to see those teeming incredible images on a gargantuan screen...

The movie was just as easy to slip back inside of in the back half, given its immersive atmosphere and non-plotty observational 'a year in the life of...' happenings. After the movie was over a brief Q & A -- Aparicio told the room that she was terrified to audition and initially worried that this was somehow a human traffiking situation (!!!) since that unthinkable fate is a real fear to her community but they have no experience with the movies. But her sister was insistent that she try out. Her fears were allieviated when she realized it was above board and the production didnt object to her mom staying with her for the whole shoot.

A cultural ambassador for Mexico was on hand to present Yalitza with a Rising Star award (a first for this festival) and a Mariachi band walked us all from the theater to the party, which felt like being serenaded to while still on a movie high while heading to an open bar. (Not a bad feeling! But you see why festival fever is real in critics reviews. Everything can feel much more heightened, as it's often not just a movie but an event) 

A mariachi band played all during the party

At the opening party we spoke with the lead actress Yalitza Aparicio (through a translator as she doesnt speak English) as well as the film's Venezuelan producer Gabriela Rodriguez (who could become the first Latina to be nominated for Best Picture!). It's distinctly possible that Aparicio, who is a pre-school teacher (Cuarón hired almost all non-actors for the film), is overwhelmed by all of this attention but if so she's handling it well. She never stopped smiling and posing for pictures and patiently had lost of those stop and start conversations through her translator.

When I got a moment to talk to her at the party I asked her about her most dramatic scene (no spoilers) and how she managed to pull off the intensity. I was surprised to here that Cuarón kept her in the dark, often not telling her what would happen in a scene so her reactions would be visceral. This secrecy even extended to the producer. Rodriguez informed me with comic exasperation that Cuarón didn't even give her the script until they were done shooting. Why do I need it NOW? 

One final note which is perhaps common knowledge but was news to me: Chivo himself, three time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, was supposed to shoot the film but had to withdraw when shooting was delayed for quite a while due to other projects. He was very upset about it since he usually shoots Cuarón's movies and had actually prepped this one. He encouraged Cuarón to shoot it himself when they realized he wouldn't be able to stay on the project. Cuarón sent Chivo early footage to make sure he was on the right track. 

After collecting these little tidbits to share with you, I went back to partying and a reunion with the Middleburg regulars: Jazz from Awards Daily and her wife, Clayton from Awards Circuit and his wife, Charles from Gold Derby, and me.

Such a fun night. On to Day Two! 

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Reader Comments (6)

OMG! It sounds like you had an awesome time. I can't wait to see this movie and am thrilled that a Latin actress is seriously being considered for shortlists. Viva Mexico!

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

What a fabulous event! I cannot wait to see this film. That is actually a pretty heartbreaking story about Aparicio thinking this could actually be an attempt at human trafficking. Wow. Her performance sounds incredible and you both look so happy and beautiful in that picture. I grew up in Venezuela so it was a treat to read the producer of ROMA is a fellow expat.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel M

It sounds as though you had a wonderful time.

I just saw Roma this evening at a preview screening. I liked the film a lot. What an eventful year it covers. And it's so well made.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Aparicio not Aparacio

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaya

I can't wait to see Roma. Yalitza Aparicio seems like the sweetest person, and I'm so happy for the attention and the goodwill that is coming to her.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJones

With each passing day I am becoming convinced that Aparicio is getting in.

October 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

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