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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 15:20 GMT
Oscar calls Mexican Mama's boy

By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff in Hollywood

Carlos Cuaron
Carlos Cuaron is hoping to move into directing feature films
One of the biggest recent film hits to come out of Mexico, the racy coming-of-age movie Y Tu Mama Tambien, has earned its writer Carlos Cuaron and his brother, director Alfonso, an Oscar nomination.

When Carlos Cuaron was writing Y Tu Mama Tambien, he thought his story, dominated by the sex, drugs and swearing of two teenage Mexicans who go on a road trip with an older woman, would just be too much for US audiences.

So it was a surprise when it became a box office hit - for a foreign-language film - and an even bigger surprise when the ageing and conservative Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominated it for a best original screenplay Oscar.

"I was wrong and I'm glad I was wrong," Carlos Cuaron told BBC News Online. "It just proves that Americans like sex and they also like cursing."

Thanks to the Oscar nomination, he no longer gets confused with his brother, who is currently directing the third Harry Potter movie, Carlos says.

Exploring humanity

He has also been adopted as a Latin American success story, and all the top Hollywood executives want to work with him - but they wanted that before the nomination too, he says.

But he has turned down 95% of the Hollywood offers, such as comic book adaptations, because they are too simplistic.

"The pieces I'm looking for are character-driven pieces that I can explore humanity," he says. "I want to explore humanity in all its dimension - in its darkness, in its light, in its greyness."

A scene from Y Tu Mama Tambien
The film follows two adolescent boys on a voyage of sexual discovery

One project he has lined up is his next film with his brother, which will be about their father's funeral.

Their father, a nuclear scientist, separated from their mother when they were young and they rarely saw him before he died in February 2002.

But when they went to Miami, where he died, it was like "Y Tu Mama Tambien goes to a funeral", Carlos says.

"People are going to think that we made it all up but no, very weird things happened to us and I'm sure people in theatres are going to laugh."

'Seize the moment'

As well as the Cuaron brothers, Mexico has enjoyed a good year with Oscar nominations, with Salma Hayek and art director Felipe Fernandez del Paso also shortlisted.

Successful Mexican films like Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amores Perros and best foreign-language Oscar nominee The Crime of Father Amaro have led many to hail the dawn of a golden era for the Mexican film industry.

Carlos Cuaron (left) with brother and Harry Potter director Alfonso
Carlos Cuaron (left) with brother and Harry Potter director Alfonso

But Carlos Cuaron says that is "just a mirage", and that there is no such thing as a Mexican film industry - just good individuals who produced just 13 feature films in 2002.

"It is a crisis, a huge crisis," he says. "There are so many Mexicans nominated because there is the talent."

"But if we don't keep on generating projects in that quality level, then this will amount to nothing. We have to seize the moment right now," he says.

An Oscar win for any of the Mexican nominees would work wonders for the country's film-makers because it would persuade more investors to back them, he says.

But he says he will not mind if he is not the Mexican success at the ceremony on Sunday.

"If I get this award, it's just perfect. If I don't, it's almost perfect. But I'm not expecting anything."

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