This time of the year is a little crazy at our house between the anticipation of the Super Bowl and the excitement around Academy Award nominations. I haven’t seen a lot of the nominated films yet but I’m hoping to see some in the next few weeks. Out of the movies I’ve seen so far, one movie stands out — Roma by Alfonso Cuaron.
If you haven’t heard yet, Roma just received 10 Oscar nominations, not bad for a recently unknown film that had a split release between Netflix and independent movie houses. The story is based on Cuaron’s childhood and his fondest memories of his childhood nanny. There is something so poignantly beautiful about the black and white scenes of Mexico City in the 1970s as a backdrop to the inner workings of an upper-middle class family and its relationship to its help. Contrary to the typical master-servant movie plot we see in the US, Roma shows a lot of love and compassion between the family members and their nanny, Cleo.
I didn’t think Roma was going to stir strong emotions in me but it did. The movie brought me back to my childhood in the Philippines where I vividly remember being close to one particular yaya, or nanny in English, named Charito or Chato for short. I remember being inseparable from Chato when I was about five years old and my mother was busy finishing her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. Was it Chato’s almost unlimited availability to me or was it her dark skin tone, close to my coloring that made me closer to her? In a family where I was teased for being darker, her skin color definitely felt more comforting and familial. Her presence and encouraging words also gave me a sense of stability when my parents started encountering marital problems.
Like the nanny in Roma, Chato went out occasionally on the weekends with friends and sometimes with her boyfriend, Odie. I remember how happy Chato looked forward to seeing Odie and how proud she was of him. One day, she even introduced me to Odie, whom she also called the love of her life. Unbeknownst to me, the introduction was Chato’s way of prepping me for the following week when she would elope with Odie and would forever disappear in my life.
Images via NY Magazine and Vox