Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is about many things: power dynamics, gender, race, domestic work, and, as presenter Diego Luna said at the Oscars, about “strong women and absent men.” It could have been the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture, a fact Luna alluded to when he began his announcement of the film in Spanish. “Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir,” Luna said onstage — translation: “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They finally opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Luna’s decision to start his Roma announcement in Spanish may seem unusual, but so is Roma’s mainstream success. As Vox’s Constance Grady explained, it’s not the kind of movie that usually attracts a wide audience — it’s a black-and-white art film with subtitles, not exactly a blockbuster with universal appeal. If not for its ultra-famous director, Roma would be the kind of movie that gets relegated to the Best Foreign Film category. But Roma was nominated for 10 awards — including Best Foreign Film — and is tied for the most nominations this year with The Favourite.
“I’m hearing Spanish all around, which is lovely,” Luna said on the red carpet. “I remember the first time I did this, I didn’t know anyone. I was with Gael [García Bernal]. No one wanted to interview us — they had to push for someone to actually spend three minutes asking us whatever. And things are changing!”
Luna wasn’t the only presenter to speak a foreign language onstage tonight. While announcing the winner of Best Foreign Film — which, by the way, was Roma — Javier Bardem switched into Spanish. “No hay fronteras, no hay muros que frenen el ingenio y el talento. En cada región, en cada país, en cada continente del mundo, hay historias que nos conmueven.” In other words, there are no borders or walls that can stop ingenuity and talent.
There were a few other nods to Roma too: When accepting the award for Best Foreign Film, Cuarón quipped, “Are they going to put subtitles on me too?” And before Guillermo del Toro announced Cuarón’s win for Best Director, he joked, “This name, I can pronounce.”
Cuarón also gave part of that acceptance speech in Spanish. “Muchas gracias a Lido, muchas gracias a México,” he said, thanking his former nanny, who served as the inspiration for the film, and his home country.
Spanish wasn’t the only foreign language spoken onstage tonight. Trevor Noah said a few words in Xhosa while presenting Black Panther. “Abelungu abazi’ uba ndiyaxoka,” which he said means, “In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.” The real translation, per OkayAfrica? “White people don’t know I’m lying.”