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‘Roma’ Explored 1970s Mexico. Here’s How Issues in the Film Have Played Out

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Mexican filmmaker Alfonzo Cuarón’s “Roma,” a darling of the 2019 award season with 10 Academy Award nominations and two wins in the Golden Globes, is an intimate story of Cuarón’s childhood told through the eyes of an indigenous woman who works as a nanny to a middle-class family in Mexico City. The family drama also provides a gripping glimpse of Mexican society at the cusp of great social change in the early 1970s, a time of migration, urbanization and cultural transformation.

“The movie is to a great extent a story about modernization,” said Claudio Lomnitz, professor of anthropology at the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. “We see two rural girls come from Oaxaca who have moved to the city. They are indigenous and they speak Mixtec, but they also speak Spanish, they go to the movies, they have sex.”

Almost 50 years have passed from the time in which the movie is set. How does today’s Mexico compare with the Mexico of Cuarón’s childhood with regard to the more disturbing social issues it portrays, like violence and social inequality? NBC spoke to four researchers on Mexico from the fields of history, sociology and anthropology.

More Violence After the Drug War Begins
“Mexico is a country that hurts,” said Maria Amalia Gracia, sociologist at the Department of Society and Culture of Colegio de la Frontera del Sur, a research center located on the southern border of Mexico. For Gracia, violence in Mexico today has reached unimaginable levels. “It is surprising that people can continue to live in those conditions,” she said.

2019 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture

[NATL] 2019 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture

The Corpus Christi Massacre of 1971 is the backdrop to a frightening scene in “Roma,” the moment when the film’s pregnant protagonist, Cleo, discovers that the father of her child is part of a government paramilitary group.

The massacre and the paramilitaries in the film represented the dominant form of violence of the day: centrally directed repressive violence, known as “The Dirty War” that took place under the orders of the presidency and the Ministry of Interior. It was a war that the country’s authoritarian one-party regime was fighting, indiscriminately, against two enemies: a growing urban middle class demanding democratization, and a left-wing student movement featuring guerrilla groups, Lomnitz said.

“Mexico is a much freer country today, but it is also a much more violent country,” Lomnitz said. The new violence is “less heroic, less easy to romanticize.”

It is no longer about struggles for justice or freedom, against a repressive society and regime. The now prevalent drug-related spike in violence has its roots in 2006, the year Mexico’s Drug War formally began.

Between the early 1970s and the eve of the Drug War, violence in Mexico had decreased significantly, Lomnitz said. In 2007, homicide rates (9.3 per 100,000 people) were not much higher than in the United States (5.7 per 100,000). But by 2018, they reached 25 per 100,000. At the beginning of the Drug War, the government’s official take was that the death toll was to a large extent, a result of organizations killing each other off in turf wars. But recent studies by Mexico’s Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) suggest that Mexico’s military and federal police have executed a substantial proportion of the 150,000 Drug War-related killings

“Much of the violence today also comes from local governments, which are often in the control of criminal organizations,” Lomnitz said. The Iguala Massacre of 2014, where 43 students from a rural teachers’ college were taken and disappeared, is an example of this new type of violence, as is the fact that during the 2018 federal elections, more than 100 local candidates were assassinated.

“The closing of the U.S.-Mexican border is an untold part of this story,” Lomnitz said. As moving across the border became more difficult in the 1990s, the firepower and discipline of organized crime trafficking with Colombian cocaine grew. It triggered an increase in the concentration of criminal money, wealth and violence. More recently, powerful Chinese criminal organizations have partnered with Mexican ones to produce methamphetamine in Mexico, destined for the North American market. This development is furthering the concentration of violent criminal power.

Tensions Over Land Dampened by Modernization
Conflicts over land come up various times in “Roma.” The government takes away land belonging to Cleo’s mother. A man sitting in a bar has lost a family member due to a land dispute. A family of landowners exhibits on its farmhouse wall, the stuffed head of a pet dog that had been poisoned during another land dispute. And the New Year’s party being held by that same family is eerily interrupted by arson in the surrounding woods.

“Low-scale agrarian violence is very old in Mexico,” Lomnitz said, adding that it goes back to colonial times. And after the land reforms of the 1920s and 1930s, when the countryside was made up of small scale farmers, conflicts sprung up between towns, between smallholders, and between smallholders and larger landowners.

Conflict over land began to recede in the 1980s due to an increasing migration to the city, which led to fewer land disputes in the countryside. “Roma” shows the beginning of this migration. Cleo visits, in search of her baby’s father, a shantytown located just outside of Mexico City limits that was beginning to be occupied by squatters, migrants from the countryside. Today, this place, known as Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl with a population of 1.1 million, is the 10th largest city in Mexico.

A Continuing Racial Divide
Yalitza Aparicio, the first indigenous woman to be Oscar-nominated for best leading actress, plays Cleo, the servant of a white family. She is treated with affection and care, but the difference in social status is enforced at all times, in both explicit and subtle ways. For example, while cuddling with the family in front of the TV, she is abruptly ordered to fetch tea for “the doctor.”

“She is very lucky,” said Kevin Terraciano, professor of history and director of the Latin American Institute at UCLA. Indigenous servant women are not always treated well.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu has spoken of how vulnerable she felt living with a family as a young woman. Sexual advances and mistreatment is an underlying possibility.

“In the last 10 years, there has been increased awareness of the problems faced by domestic workers,” Gracia said, “but racism and behaviors underscoring inequality continue to exist. Results of our most recent research on domestic workers are eloquent on the problems of discrimination and abuse.”

Some progress has been made at the legislative level in recognizing the rights of the indigenous population. Laws protecting the right to their languages and culture, and to self-empowerment have been enacted since the turn of the century. A rebellion of indigenous people in the 1990s, known as the Zapatista rebellion, in which paramilitary death squads massacred indigenous people, marked the beginning of increased awareness. Since then, indigenous communities have also made progress in “the creation of autonomous communities, which give them more direct representation over their land and resources,” Terraciano said. But it is still common to see indigenous women working as servants. And the indigenous populations remain extremely poor.

“Here in Mexico being indigenous gives you a particular social status. There is a marginalization, a social discrimination that we Mexicans know by the social norms and social codes with which we are educated,” said Jesus Ruvalcaba, a researcher at the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Mexico City. “There has been some progress, but not much.”

Being “indio” in Mexico continues to be a stigma. And the indigenous people feel it and know it, Terraciano said. “After independence from Spain, the leaders of the new nation saw these traditional cultures as obstacles.” Since then, governments have used laws and force to dissolve native communities and mainstream indigenous peoples. “Today, leaders continue to speak of the ‘Indian problem.'” 

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Scarlett Johansson Gets Slimed by Colin Jost While Accepting MTV’s Generation Award – NBC4 Washington

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Scarlett Johansson got a surprise from husband Colin Jost during the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards.

The 36-year-old “Black Widow” star accepted the Generation Award with a pre-taped segment that aired during the awards ceremony on Sunday. She began her acceptance speech by thanking her co-workers from throughout her career, in addition to expressing appreciation for her fans.

“I never would have been able to continue to evolve as an actor for the last 30 years without the support and dedication of so many cast and crew members that make up the nomadic traveling-circus family that are movie sets, and the dedication and hard work of so many people that goes into making any movie continues to inspire me as a performer,” Johansson said.

“Thank you so much to my fans for riding the wave with me and for supporting my career so I can continue to have the good fortune to pursue the job that is my passion,” she continued. “I realize what an absolute gift it is to be able to have the opportunity to do what I love, and I couldn’t do it without your continued support.”

Things got wild as Johansson was in the process of introducing a previously unseen clip from “Black Widow” when Jost walked over to her in their home and poured a bowl of green slime over her head.

Scarlett Johansson’s Best Looks

“What the f—?” Johansson said.

“MTV! You got slimed,” Jost responded.

After the “Rough Night” actress explained that the 38-year-old “Saturday Night Live” star was thinking of Nickelodeon, he replied, “I’m very, very sorry.”

She fired back, “Just get a towel,” and then wouldn’t let him attempt to dab her face with it.

In introducing the star prior to the segment, Billy Porter quipped, “She’s the only Oscar nominee I know who can bench press more than Chris Hemsworth and look hotter doing it.”

Earlier this month, a press release announced Johansson would receive the award.

“The highly coveted ‘Generation Award’ celebrates beloved actors whose diverse contributions to both film and television have turned them into household names,” the statement said in part.

Previous recipients include Dwayne Johnson, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr.

Prior to the Generation Award, Johansson had been nominated for six MTV Movie & TV Awards prizes over the years. She nabbed the golden popcorn in 2013 for “Best Fight” for “The Avengers.”

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NowThis Editor Versha Sharma to Take Over at Teen Vogue After Controversy Over Previous Pick – NBC4 Washington

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Teen Vogue has chosen Versha Sharma, a top editor at NowThis, to replace Alexi McCammond as editor-in-chief after a swirl of controversy over McCammond’s past anti-Asian tweets.

Sharma takes over May 24 at the digital-only publication after McCammond and the Condé Nast title parted ways before her appointment took effect.

“I am incredibly excited and grateful for this awesome opportunity,” Sharma tweeted of Monday’s announcement.

Anna Wintour, the global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer for Condé Nast, said in a statement that Sharma is a “natural leader” with a “global perspective and deep understanding of local trends and issues — from politics and activism to culture and fashion.”

Sharma was named managing editor of NowThis, a digital news site, in 2015. In 2012, she covered the U.S. presidential election for MSNBC.com. She is the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow award with the NowThis Reports team for a short documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and she’s on the board of directors of the Online News Association.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Sharma grew up in Louisiana and lives in New York.

McCammond, who is Black, was tapped in March at age 27 as the incoming editor in chief to replace Lindsay Peoples Wagner, but derogatory tweets from when she was a teenager and college student in 2011 caused a backlash after the appointment was announced.

Sharma said in the statement issued by Teen Vogue that she has long admired the magazine for “building and fostering a community of young people who want to change the world.”

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John Mulaney and Wife Anna Marie Tendler Break Up After 6 Years of Marriage – NBC4 Washington

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After more than six years of marriage, comedian John Mulaney and wife Anna Marie Tendler are splitting up.

Individual reps for each party confirmed the news in a statement to Page Six on Monday. E! News has reached out to reps for comment.

“I am heartbroken that John has decided to end our marriage,” Tendler expressed through her spokesperson. “I wish him support and success as he continues his recovery.”

A spokesperson for Mulaney also confirmed the news of the divorce to the outlet and added, “John will not have any further comment as he continues to focus on his recovery and getting back to work.”

The “Big Mouth” actor and accomplished artist tied the knot in July 2014 in Boiceville, New York. Friend and “Schitt’s Creek” actor Dan Levy served as the couple’s officiant at their wedding.

The 38-year-old comedian completed a stint in rehab in December 2020, where he stayed for 60 days to treat issues relating to cocaine and alcohol addiction. He moved to outpatient care in February 2021.

When Comedians Get Serious

Mulaney has been open when it comes to discussing his struggles with addiction, most notably in a 2019 interview with Esquire.

“I drank for attention,” he shared with the magazine. “I was really outgoing, and then at twelve, I wasn’t. I didn’t know how to act. And then I was drinking, and I was hilarious again.”

The “Saturday Night Live” alum is set to officially return to work on the comedy circuit after completing outpatient care — booking four mid-May shows at the New York City venue City Winery. Tickets for those shows are sold out.

Tendler, for her part, is pursuing a Master of Arts degree from NYU Steinhardt in fashion and textile studies.

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Los Angeles Lakers Nine-Part Docuseries Coming to Hulu in 2022 – NBC4 Washington

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Los Angeles Lakers Nine-Part Docuseries Coming to Hulu in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Los Angeles Lakers are getting their own version of “The Last Dance.”

A nine-part docuseries on the Lakers will be coming to Hulu in 2022, the team announced on Monday. Unlike ESPN’s highly popular “The Last Dance” — which centered around Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls — this series will detail the last four decades of the Lakers. That includes everything from Jerry Buss purchasing the organization, to Magic Johnson and the “Showtime” Lakers, to the Shaq-and-Kobe dynasty, to LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the team to its latest championship last season.

Those are some rather compelling Hollywood storylines.

The series will include new interviews with more than 35 members of the Lakers organization, including Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as never-before-seen interviews with the late Jerry Buss. It will be directed by Antoine Fuqua, whose Muhammad Ali documentary “What’s My Name?” won a Sports Emmy for outstanding long documentary.  

“When Dr. Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, he sat alone at center court of the Forum and thought of all the possibilities,” Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “But even in his wildest dreams, my father could not have imagined what the next decades would bring for our organization, our league and our city of Los Angeles. I am thrilled that the true story of the Lakers will finally be shared with the world — and that we are in such capable hands with Hulu and Antoine, a director whose storytelling I’ve admired for years.”

The 1980s Lakers will also be the subject of a drama series on HBO, with a cast that includes John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson and Sally Field as Jessie Buss.

Mike Gavin contributed to this story

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Miss Mexico Andrea Meza Crowned Miss Universe 2021 – NBC4 Washington

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And we have a new Miss Universe.

After more than a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Miss Universe competition was finally held Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Mario Lopez and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who won the crown in 2012, co-hosted the show, which featured a special performance by Luis Fonsi.

Taking home the ultimate crown this year was Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, who wowed the selection community with her beauty and brains.

During the final statement round, Miss Mexico was asked to address the topic of changing beauty standards.

“We live in a society that more and more is more advanced and as we have advanced as a society, we have advanced with stereotypes,” she shared via translator. “Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirits, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you are not valuable.”

And just minutes before, Miss Mexico also faced the final question round where she was asked to share how she would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miss Universe 2021: Swimsuit Competition

“I believe there is not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as COVID-19,” she said. “However, I believe that what I would have done, was create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That’s why I would have taken care of them since the beginning.”

Before the show, Paula M. Shugart, who serves as the president of the Miss Universe Organization, addressed the pandemic and how the pageant was staying safe.

“We have spent months planning and preparing safety precautions to develop this edition of Miss Universe – one that will be memorable, special and totally innovative,” she said in a statement.

Beauty queens from 74 countries and territories competed in the pageant, however just 21 contestants advanced to the final round. After first competing in the swimsuit contest, which you can see photos from here, 10 moved on to the evening gown competition. Five contestants were selected to participate in the question and answer round.

The last time the Miss Universe pageant was held was in 2019, when Miss South Africa, aka Zozibini Tunzi, took home the ultimate prize. Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson was the first runner-up and Miss Mexico Sofa Aragn was the second runner-up.

At the time, Tunzi really impressed the judges with her answer to the question, “What is the most important thing we should be teaching girls today?”

She replied, “I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time. Not because we don’t want to, but because what society has labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world.”

Of passing the torch to her successor, Tunzi said in a statement, “I always knew that my reign as Miss Universe would be unlike any other. While it was nothing like what I had imagined my year to be, this year has opened doors for me I could never have imagined.I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually with people all over the world and elevate the causes I care most about.”

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