MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s Oscars triumph and a win by animated film “Coco” were hailed by Mexicans on Monday as a sign of their nation’s cultural sway in the United States despite growing tensions under U.S. President Donald Trump.
Del Toro’s best director win for his “The Shape of Water,” a fable about the mistreatment of the powerless, marked the fourth time a Mexican had taken home the award in the last five years, following the success of Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
The accolades from Hollywood for Mexican filmmakers stands in contrast to Trump’s repeated attacks on the United States’ southern neighbor, which began when he launched his campaign by saying Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers.
In Mexico, news headlines boasted “Mexico sweeps the Oscars,” “Oscar 2018: Mexico’s Night” and “Del Toro Paints the Oscars Green, White and Red,” the colors of the Mexican flag.
In his acceptance speech, Del Toro celebrated his immigrant heritage and took a veiled dig at Trump, who wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration.
“The greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand,” del Toro said. “We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.”
Latinos in the United States and Mexicans back home cheered his win.
“It was exhilarating to see,” said Gaz Alazraki, a Mexican filmmaker who produces Mexican Netflix series “Club of Crows.”
“Guillermo spoke on behalf of all dreamers. With his success, he is a symbol of what the United States has meant for foreigners for forever,” Alazraki told Reuters.
Mexicans make up about four-fifths of the so-called Dreamers - hundreds of thousands of young people whose parents brought them to the United States illegally and whose fate is now uncertain after Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has blasted Trump’s plan for a border wall, took to Twitter after del Toro’s win to needle the U.S. president.
“The Mexican Power at the #Oscars is raw talent, which is not there illegally or stealing jobs, as @realDonaldTrump claims. You see, Donald, talent is not limited by borders,” Fox said.
“The Shape of Water” had 13 nominations and won a total of four Academy Awards, including best picture.
The success of animated feature “Coco” was also celebrated as a breakthrough for putting Mexican traditions and life in poor villages at the center of the Disney pantheon.
The Disney-Pixar film was a box office smash, raking in more than $700 million worldwide.
The film follows a boy named Miguel who finds himself in the land of the dead during the Mexican celebration of the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
“With ‘Coco’ we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do,” Lee Unkrich, one of the film’s directors, said in accepting the award.
When del Toro and his fellow “Three Amigos” directors Cuaron and Gonzalez Inarritu began making films in Mexico in the 1990s, the local industry was nearly dead, churning out a handful of films a year.
Now, Mexico’s industry produces around 150 films a year. Starting next weekend, the county’s up-and-coming talent will compete at the Guadalajara film festival, a showcase for local productions.
Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis