There was plenty of fun poked at Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and their band of racist homophobes. There were several mentions of the #MeToo and #NeverAgain movements, which aim to combat and mitigate discrimination and violence against women in Hollywood. But it was Mexico, and Latin America in general, that stole the spotlight at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony this weekend.
To start things off, Rita Moreno (the first Latin American woman to win an acting Oscar) announced that the Chilean film “A Fantastic Woman” had won the award for Best Foreign Language Film. The beautiful yet heartbreaking story of a transgender woman’s struggles after she loses her partner, starring the Chilean trans actress Daniela Vega, “A Fantastic Woman” was certainly among the favorites to snag the Oscar, but the win was a sweet one for director Sebastiá Leilo and his supporters.
Then came “Coco,” the Disney/Pixar animated feature that celebrates Mexican tradition and culture, winning for Best Animated Feature Film. Again, “Coco” was the favorite in this category, so the victory was not unexpected. Nevertheless, it was a sweet moment as President Trump sits in the Oval Office, brought there by millions of voters who celebrated his having called Mexican immigrants “murderers” and “rapists.”
Equally foreordained was the win for “Remember Me,” the lovely ballad featured in “Coco.” During the ceremony the song was performed by actor Gael García Bernal (who sounded a bit hoarse and nervous) and then by Mexican singers Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade, standing in front of a colorful stage celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead tradition.
But the big headliner was indubitably Mexican director Guillermo del Toro who walked away with two of the night’s biggest prizes: Best Director and Best Picture for his fantastical fable “The Shape of Water” (the movie won two more awards, including Best Musical Score). Del Toro is not the first Mexican filmmaker to achieve this feat. Just three years ago, Alejandro González Iñárritu also won Best Director and Best Picture for “Birdman (or, the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). But del Toro’s wins this year are significant because they capped a ceremony that highlighted the contributions of immigrants, the pride they feel (and should feel) in their traditions, in their journeys, and the need for the world to stand together against the forces of hatred and division.