Alfonso Cuarón

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Alfonso Cuarón
Cuarón in July 2013
Alfonso Cuarón Orozco

(1961-11-28) 28 November 1961 (age 62)
Mexico City, Mexico
Alma materNational Autonomous University of Mexico
  • Film director
  • film producer
  • screenwriter
  • cinematographer
  • film editor
Years active1981–present
Mariana Elizondo
(m. 1980; div. 1993)
Annalisa Bugliani
(m. 2001; div. 2008)
Children3, including Jonás Cuarón
RelativesCarlos Cuarón (brother)
AwardsFull list

Alfonso Cuarón Orozco (US: /kwɑːˈrn/ kwar-OHN,[1] Spanish: [alˈfonso kwaˈɾon] ; born 28 November 1961) is a Mexican filmmaker. His accolades include four Academy Awards, seven BAFTA Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards.

Cuarón made his feature film debut with the romantic comedy Sólo con tu pareja (1991), and directed the film adaptations A Little Princess (1995), and Great Expectations (1998). His breakthrough came with the coming-of-age film Y tu mamá también (2001) which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He gained greater prominence for directing the fantasy film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), the dystopian drama Children of Men (2006), the science fiction drama Gravity (2013), and the semi-autobiographical drama Roma (2018). The later two won him Academy Awards for Best Director. He also won Best Film Editing for Gravity and Best Cinematography for Roma.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Cuarón was born in Mexico City, the son of Alfredo Cuarón, a doctor specializing in nuclear medicine, and Cristina Orozco, a pharmaceutical biochemist.[3] He has a sister Christina, and two brothers; Carlos, also a filmmaker,[4] and Alfredo, a conservation biologist.[5] Cuarón studied philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and filmmaking at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos,[6] a school within the same university. There he met the director Carlos Marcovich and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki,[6] and they made what would be his first short film, Vengeance Is Mine.[7]


1990–1999: Rise to prominence[edit]

Cuarón at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in 1998.

Cuarón began working on television in Mexico, first as a technician and then as a director. His television work led to assignments as an assistant director for several film productions including La Gran Fiesta (1985), Gaby: A True Story (1987) and Romero (1989). In 1991 he landed his first big-screen directorial assignment, Sólo con tu pareja, a sex comedy about a womanizing businessman (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) who, after having sex with an attractive nurse, is fooled into believing he's contracted AIDS. In addition to writing, producing and directing, Cuarón co-edited the film with Luis Patlán.[8] The film, which also starred cabaret singer Astrid Hadad and model/actress Claudia Ramírez (with whom Cuarón was linked between 1989 and 1993) was a big hit in Mexico. After this success, director Sydney Pollack hired Cuarón to direct an episode of Fallen Angels, a series of neo-noir stories produced for the Showtime premium cable network in 1993; other directors who worked on the series included Steven Soderbergh, Jonathan Kaplan, Peter Bogdanovich, and Tom Hanks. The episode was entitled, "Murder, Obliquely" (1993) starring Laura Dern, Alan Rickman, and Diane Lane.[9]

In 1995, Cuarón released his first feature film produced in the United States, A Little Princess, an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 1905 novel of the same name. The film received critical acclaim with Janet Maslin of The New York Times declaring, "[the film] is a bright, beautiful and enchantingly childlike vision", one that "draw[s] its audience into the wittily heightened reality of a fairy tale" and "takes enough liberties to re-invent rather than embalm Miss Burnett's assiduously beloved story".[10] The film went on to receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design.[11] Cuarón's next feature was also a literary adaptation, a modernized version of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert De Niro. The film received mixed reviews to negative reviews.[12] Russell Smith of The Austin Chronicle did however praise the film writing, ". What's truly intriguing about this film, though, is the stylishness with which Cuaron (A Little Princess) reinvents Dickens' hoary, often-remade tale. This Great Expectations has a seductive, enchanting feel that has nothing to do with sweet, gauzy sentiments or calculatedly “magical” Hollywood imagery".[13]

2000–2009: Career breakthrough and success[edit]

Cuarón and Clive Owen, who worked together on Children of Men.

In 2001, Cuarón found himself returning to Mexico with a Spanish-speaking cast to film Y tu mamá también, starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdú. It was a provocative and controversial road comedy about two sexually obsessed teenagers who take an extended road trip with an attractive married woman who is much older than them. The film's open portrayal of sexuality and frequent rude humor, as well as the politically and socially relevant asides, made the film an international hit and a major success with critics.[14][15] The film was distributed through IFC in America allowing the film to collecte $13.8 million in the United States, unparalleled at the time for Latin American films. [16] Critic Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It is clear Cuaron is a gifted director, and here he does his best work to date."[17] Cuarón shared an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay with co-writer and brother Carlos Cuarón.

In 2004, Cuarón directed the third film in the successful Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Cuarón faced criticism at the time from some Harry Potter fans for his approach to the film, notably its tendency to take more creative liberties with the source material than its predecessors.[18] However, author J. K. Rowling, who had seen and loved Cuarón's film Y tu mamá también, said that it was her personal favorite from the series so far.[19] Critically, the film was also better received than the first two installments, with some critics remarking its new tone and for being the first Harry Potter film to truly capture the essence of the novels.[20] It has been subsequently rated by audience polls and critics as the best of the movie franchise series.[21] The film earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score for John Williams.[22]

In 2006, Cuarón's feature Children of Men, an adaptation of the P. D. James novel starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine, received wide critical acclaim including three Academy Award nominations. Cuarón himself received two nominations for his work on the film, in Best Film Editing (with Alex Rodríguez) and Best Adapted Screenplay (with several collaborators).

He created the production and distribution company Esperanto Filmoj ("Esperanto Films", named because of his support for the international language Esperanto[23]), which has credits in the films Duck Season, Pan's Labyrinth, and Gravity. Cuarón also directed the controversial public service announcement I Am Autism (2009) for Autism Speaks that was criticized by disability rights groups for its negative portrayal of autism.[24]

2010–present: Awards recognition[edit]

Cuaron at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival

In 2010, Cuarón began to develop the film Gravity, a drama set in space. He was joined by producer David Heyman, with whom Cuarón worked on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the film opened the 70th Venice International Film Festival in August. The film was then released in America in October 2013.[25] The film became a financial success, earning 723.2 million at the box office against a budget of 130 million.[26] The film also received many awards nominations. For the film, he received the Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Director. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cuarón won for Best Directing, becoming the first Latin American to win the award,[27] while he and Mark Sanger received the award for Best Film Editing.[28]

In 2013, Cuarón created Believe, a science fiction/fantasy/adventure series that was broadcast as part of the 2013–14 United States network television schedule on NBC as a mid-season entry. The series was created by Cuarón for Bad Robot and Warner Bros. Television. In 2014, Time placed him in its list of "100 Most Influential People in the World" – Pioneers.[29]

In May 2015, Cuarón was announced as the president of the jury for the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.[30]

Alfonso Cuarón in Morelia International Film Festival

Production began in fall 2016 for Cuarón's eighth film, Roma, a tale of a housekeeper for a middle class Mexican family in 1970s Mexico City, based on the life of his family's longtime maid, Liboria Rodríguez.[31] The project was produced by Cuarón, Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis and starred Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira both of whom received Oscar nominations. The film debuted at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion,[32] and was distributed to select Mexican and American theaters before its online release on Netflix. Roma was highly acclaimed upon release; among its accolades are two Golden Globes (Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director for Cuarón) and three Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography for Cuarón) out of a leading ten nominations.[33][34]

In 2019, Cuaron signed an overall TV deal at Apple.[35] His first series for Apple will be the psychological thriller Disclaimer, which is set to star Cate Blanchett and Kevin Kline.[36]


Cuarón often uses long takes and moving cameras to emulate a documentary film style. [37] For instance, in his first feature film the average shot length is around six seconds, and ten years later for Y, Tu Mama Tambien the average shot length increases to 19.6 seconds. To add on, for Prisoners of Azkaban Cuarón returned to a more conventional form as the shot lengths averaged to 5 and a half seconds, but when later directing Children of Men the shot length balloons back to 16 seconds per shot. To contextualize this with Hollywood conventions, the average shot is less than two seconds.[38] Since Cuarón has worked in Hollywood throughout his career he also has adopted Hollywood genres as well, and not only for the Hollywood films that he has directed. For those films such as Children of Men he used the disaster film as inspiration along the accompanying science fiction genre. In Prisoners of Azkaban he continued to utilize the coming-of-age genre after he initially uses it for Y, Tu Mama Tambien. [39] That film is by and large a road movie, a genre predominantly American, but the film is also argued as a teen movie. [40] To take the documentary style even further he employs a voice-over narration in the same film. The narration that is interjected throughout the film highlights the socio-economic state of the main characters, and minor characters and extras who offer little to the overall narrative. It should be pointed out that the voice-over narration is extra-diegetic in that it does not belong to any of the characters in the film. Alfonso Cuaron’s style is attributed to a mix of Hollywood conventions, while also breaking away from that dominant influence by taking an unorthodox approach by using a voice-over narrator in a narrative film and by lengthening the average shot time.


As mentioned above, the voice-over narration in Y Tu Mama Tambien contains political messages. In the aforementioned film Cuarón tackles Mexican identity and sovereignty. With the backdrop of the 1990s and the advent of NAFTA and neoliberalism in Mexico, Cuarón critiques Mexico for the path they are heading towards a globalized economy and world.[41] Cuarón also addresses Mexican history such as colonialism and the long unfulfilled promises of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Using the same film as an example the narrator states that a new political party is in power, but hints that no real change will come about. This is also supported with one of the main characters, Julio, sharing a last name with the Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, yet the name does not push Julio into action or in other words he lacks the initiative and interest in the country.[42] These same themes of identity and history, particularly of Mexico, were first addressed in his first feature film Solo con tu pareja. In both films Cuarón uses allegory that ties into a national identity and/or history. On top of these themes he also tackles class, but that can be considered a subcategory of economics or politics in which he already grapples with.

Personal life[edit]

Cuarón is a vegetarian[37][43] and has been living in London since 2000.[44]

Cuarón's first marriage was to Mariana Elizondo with whom he has a son, Jonás Cuarón, born in 1981. Jonás is also a film director, known for Year of the Nail and Desierto.[45] Alfonso's second marriage, from 2001 to 2008 was to Italian actress and freelance journalist Annalisa Bugliani, with whom he has two children.[45]

He has publicly shown his fascination for the Esperanto language and his support for the Esperanto movement.[46] He called his production company Esperanto Filmoj. In October 2023, Cuarón signed an open letter from artists to Joe Biden, President of the United States, calling for a ceasefire of Israeli bombardment in Gaza.[47]


Directed features
Year Title Distributor
1991 Sólo con tu pareja Warner Bros.
1995 A Little Princess
1998 Great Expectations 20th Century Fox
2001 Y tu mamá también IFC Films
2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Warner Bros. Pictures
2006 Children of Men Universal Pictures
2013 Gravity Warner Bros. Pictures
2018 Roma Netflix

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Title Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1995 A Little Princess 2
2001 Y tu mamá también 1 2 1
2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2 4
2006 Children of Men 3 3 2
2013 Gravity 10 7 11 6 4 1
2018 Roma 10 3 7 4 3 2
Total 28 10 27 12 8 3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Say How: C". National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Oscars: Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Wins Mexico Its First Foreign-Language Honor". The Hollywood Reporter. 24 February 2019. Archived from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  3. ^ Valdes, Marcela (13 December 2018). "After 'Gravity,' Alfonso Cuarón Had His Pick of Directing Blockbusters. Instead, He Went Home to Make 'Roma.'". The New York Times Magazine. Archived from the original on 1 January 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  4. ^ D'Silva, Interviews: Beverley (18 October 2009). "Relative Values: Alfonso Cuaron and his brother Carlos". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  5. ^ EcoWatch (11 September 2015). "Alfonso and Alfredo Cuarón at 'Green Day Venice': Is Fiction Needed to Tell the Facts?". EcoWatch. Retrieved 13 April 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Roma: Repatriation vs. Exploitation". 7 June 2019. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  7. ^ "The work of Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki". 5 February 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2023.
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. (20 September 2006). "Sólo Con Tu Pareja - Review - Movies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Fallen Angels: Murder, Obliquely (1993)". Mubi. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (10 May 1995). "Fairy Tale Doing a Child's Job: Reveling in Exuberant Play". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 March 2023.
  11. ^ "1996 Academy Awards". Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  12. ^ "Great Expectations (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  13. ^ "Great Expectations review". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  14. ^ "When 'Y Tu Mamá También' Changed Everything". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  15. ^ "Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  16. ^ Alvaray, Luisela. 2008. "National, Regional, and Global: New Waves of Latin American Cinema." Cinema Journal 47 (3): 48-65.
  17. ^ "Y Tu Mama Tambien". Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  18. ^ "Why Prisoner of Azkaban Remains Harry Potter's Most Polarizing Adaptation". CBR. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  19. ^ J.K. Rowling Archived 4 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 17 January 2007.
  20. ^ "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Children vote Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban best film of decade". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  22. ^ "77th Academy Awards". Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  23. ^ Interview Archived 2 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine by Sam Green with Cuarón.
  24. ^ Asansouthwestohio (23 September 2009). "Autistic Self Advocacy Network, SW Ohio: Autistic Community Condemns Autism Speaks". Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  25. ^ "Movie News: Movie Reviews, Trailers, Photos -". Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  26. ^ "Gravity". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  27. ^ "Who Is Roma Director Alfonso Cuarón? You've Definitely Seen His Incredible Movies". Harper's Bazaar. 23 February 2019. Archived from the original on 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  28. ^ "Academy Awards Search". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  29. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People – Pioneers: Alfonso Cuarón". Time. 23 April 2014. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  30. ^ "Director Alfonso Cuarón President of the International Jury for the Venezia 72 Competition". Venice Biennale. 11 May 2015. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  31. ^ Lodge, Guy (27 November 2018). "Roma: why Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar frontrunner is a triumph". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019 – via
  32. ^ Kroll, Justin (8 September 2016). "Alfonso Cuaron Sets Mexican Family Drama as Next Film". Variety. Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  33. ^ "Netflix's 'Roma' wins three Oscars, including Best Director (but not Best Picture)". 25 February 2019. Archived from the original on 16 March 2023. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  34. ^ Pulver, Andrew (25 February 2019). "Alfonso Cuarón wins Oscar for best director for Roma". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019 – via
  35. ^ Otterson, Joe (10 October 2019). "Alfonso Cuarón Sets TV Overall Deal at Apple". Variety. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  36. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (1 December 2021). "Cate Blanchett, Kevin Kline to Topline Alfonso Cuaron Apple Series 'Disclaimer'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 9 December 2022. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  37. ^ a b Dan P. Lee (22 September 2013). "The Camera's Cusp: Alfonso Cuarón Takes Filmmaking to a New Extreme With Gravity". New York. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2015 – via
  38. ^ ​​Udden, James. 2009. "Child of the Long Take: Alfonso Cuaron's Film Aesthetics in the Shadow of Globalization." Style (University Park,PA) 43 (1): 26-44.
  39. ^ Baer, Hester, and Ryan Long. "Transnational Cinema and the Mexican State in Alfonso Cuarón's 'Y Tu Mamá También." South Central Review 21, no. 3 (2004): 150-68.
  40. ^ Tierney, Dolores, “From Hollywood and Back: Alfonso Cuarón Adventures in Genre,” in New Transnationalisms in Contemporary Latin America Cinemas (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), 76.
  41. ^ Saldaña-Portillo, Maria Josefina. "In the Shadow of NAFTA: Y Tu Mamá También Revisits the National Allegory of Mexican Sovereignty." American Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2005): 751-77.
  42. ^ Hind, Emily “"Provincia in Recent Mexican Cinema, 1989-2004," Discourse 26, no. 1 & 2 (2004): 26.
  43. ^ "Vogue Arts – Down to Earth". Loquet London. 12 December 2013. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  44. ^ Baftas 2014: Alfonso Cuarón wins best director for Gravity | Film Archived 5 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  45. ^ a b "Anuncia Cuarón separación matrimonial de su segunda esposa". La Crónica (in Spanish). Notimex. 23 June 2008. Archived from the original on 21 December 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  46. ^ "The Universal Language | An Interview with Director Alfonso Cuarón". Archived from the original on 21 February 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  47. ^ "'People are being penalised': Hollywood divided over Israel-Hamas conflict". The Guardian. 2 December 2023.

External links[edit]