Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu last night went from being the toast of Hollywood to a champion of the Mexican people in just one quick breath. As he hoisted his third Oscar of the night, the triumphant filmmaker used his international spotlight to denounce both the Mexican and U.S. governments, calling on both to do more to safeguard the rights of his fellow countrymen.
"I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve," Iñárritu said, after Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture. "And the ones living in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."
Iñárritu, the second Mexican filmmaker to win an Oscar for Best Director in as many years, has a recent history of criticizing injustice suffered by Mexicans in their native country and in the United States. Along with his equally renowned counterparts, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo Del Toro — a group of Mexican filmmakers collectively known as "The Three Amigos" —, the men have been practicing a type of cinematic diplomacy that's resonating with Mexicans at home and abroad.
The three film directors recently denounced the Mexican government's handling of the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa during an event at the MoMA film benefit gala in New York last November.
In Mexico, Iñárritu's combination of success and activism is being hailed in the press and social media. Celebrated Mexican actors Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal could not contain their excitement on Twitter.
Even the Mexican government expressed its support for the man known affectionately as "El Negro."
"Congratulations! Mexico celebrates this with you," tweeted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto moments before Iñárritu called for a better government in Mexico.
Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki's consecutive win last night for his signature seamless cinematography also added to Mexico's Hollywood moment, and suggested a trend in the forming.
"Breakout hits by multi-hyphenate filmmakers like Iñárritu, Cuarón, Del Toro and Robert Rodriguez put Hollywood on notice that there was an untapped source of talent and, more important, an untapped audience among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans," USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley told Fusion. "Whether it's publicly apparent or not, every executive in Hollywood has to have a plan to attract Latino audiences. Our students are certainly aware of it and, even if they don't speak Spanish, they grew up with Latino influences and that shows in the projects they're interested in developing."
Mexicans first cheered Iñárritu when his collaboration with Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga resulted in the critically acclaimed and raw Mexico City tale Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch), which was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 2000. Along with Cuarón's sexy hit movieY Tú Mamá También (And Your Mother Too), Iñárritu's first feature film helped revive the country's slumbering film industry while inspiring a new generation of Mexican filmmakers.
"Iñárritu shows that a person who was born, raised and educated in Mexico can win an Oscar," said Samuel Douek, director of the annual L.A.-based Hola Mexico Film Festival. "An artist's duty is to reflect the times in which he lives. The fact that Iñárritu talks about problems in Mexico has inevitably raised awareness for the millions around the world."
Douek said he thinks Hollywood will "begin searching for talent in Mexico." Moviegoers, too, will start to pay more attention to Mexican-produced films at the box office and international film festivals, where Mexican flicks have done well recently thanks to edgy filmmakers like Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante.
Other up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers are experimenting with new platforms, including Gaz Alazraki, who is producing Netflix's first Latin American original series Club de Cuervos and scored a box office hit with his first feature film Nosotros Los Nobles.
Mexican film critic Daniel Krauze said his country is feeling pretty good about the growing recognition for its homegrown cinematic talent.
"We are proud for these filmmakers who left Mexico and took a huge gamble, even though this is not a success story for the Mexican film industry, since these artists had to achieve this abroad," he told Fusion. "I think Iñárritu nailed the political speech last night. He was spot on—brave and his words were accurate."
L.A.-based Mexican producer Pablo Cruz said Iñárritu's speech has found strong support among Mexicans who want their countrymen to be "more ballsy."
"This inspires us to set benchmarks, whether it's in movies, music, theatre, sports, politics — all aspects of life," he said. "It's a call to action, to stop being conformists and use our collective action to succeed."