<b>Somewhere in central Mexico, a mansion has been transformed into a studio of sorts for director Alfonso Cuarón’s film Roma, a project veiled in secrecy. All that Cuarón will admit to anyone is that the story takes place in
the 1970s and follows a year in the life of a middle-class family “with many elements and experiences of my childhood”.</b>
Cuarón is a master director, best known for big, brilliant entertainment movies, such as <em>Gravity</em>, <em>Children of Men</em> and <em>Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban</em>. For <em>Roma</em>,
however, he has returned to his homeland, where his stratospheric career took off with the breezy naturalistic 2001 road movie <em>Y Tu Mamá También</em>, in which two young men pursue the older woman of their dreams.
That film was crucial in putting Mexican cinema back on the international map.
The sprawling colonial house where Cuarón’s new film is being made has many beguiling features. There’s a double grand staircase at the entrance and a more sinister set of steep steps without rails leading down to a storage area. Most
of the action, though, is taking place on the upper floors. There you will find the professorial-looking director – he could have been in <em>Harry Potter</em> himself – shooting in a side room, concentrating on the
scene with a laser-like intensity. Watching in the background is a young, anchored figure.
That man is Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane, Cuarón’s Rolex protégé, who has wisdom in his wary eyes beyond his years. He has just one documentary, a short film and one feature film to his name, but what a feature. <em>Court</em>
tells the tragicomic story of the trial of an impoverished Indian folk singer accused within the Byzantine Indian court system of abetting the suicide of a fan. It enjoyed considerable success on the international film festival
“When I first saw <em>Court</em>,” says Cuarón, “I saw the work of someone who understands film language, and not just in terms of technique.” What made the film so fresh was its distanced approach to the intricate action
of the courtroom.
“I know the insecurities of a first film,” Cuarón continues. “I am sure that Chaitanya was craving to shoot things closer and do some typical coverage, but he kept to his approach and that’s the moment when you really make the language
flourish. It’s not the usual cinematic wallpaper, which I hate.”
Tamhane walks around the set with the calming smile of the cat that’s got the cream, but there’s no arrogance about him.