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'Birdman': A Proud Mexican's Spot-On Take On Hollywood Sweeps Oscars

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Last night, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" swept the Academy Awards, winning the most prestigious award the film industry bestows - the Oscar for Best Picture; it also won for Best Director. "Birdman's" premise follows the fall of a former movie star who tries to reinvent himself on the Great White Way. But it’s so much more than that. It is about people’s need for relevance and their insatiable appetite for appreciation. It is a movie about Hollywood made for Hollywood - and its mastermind, Alejandro González Iñárritu - happens to be Latino.

And in front of a global audience, Iñárritu made a point of referencing his roots, dedicating the Oscar to the people of Mexico and to Mexican immigrants in the U.S.:

"I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve, and the ones that live in this country, who are a 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," said Iñárritu.

Apart from the historic and cultural significance of a Latino accepting the award for Best Picture, the aforementioned juxtaposition between story and creator reminds us that the most praised and compelling stories can be told by diverse talent.

Perhaps that’s ultimately what Birdman’s win is all about. At a time when Hollywood’s workforce diversity has been put into question, Birdman’s win swoops down on an industry with subtle irony, evoking that sooner or later cultural and racial barriers are broken by undeniable talent - wherever it may come from.

Think back when Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player to don a Major League uniform, it was his undeniable talent that broke new barriers. When Puerto Rican Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Tony Award for Best Musical for “In The Heights,” it was his inherent talent that elevated a new cultural voice to the forefront of mainstream theater.

A year removed from seeing Alfonso Cuarón win the Oscar for Best Director for the film Gravity, Alejandro González Iñárritu, a man who slept in the parks of Spain in the 1980’s, last night received reaffirmation of something that has been known for several years - he and his team are some of the best filmmakers in Hollywood, regardless of race or language.

During a year when the Academy was marred by a lack of diversity, how wonderfully ironic that it was a Latino who won cinema's top prize.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a frenetic exploration of the ego, one which reverberates thunderously within Alejandro González Iñárritu’s core. It is this trait that has connected audiences so well with his metaphysical theme and allowed him to triumph with the industry’s most coveted prize. In the end, what makes Iñárritu so good is his poignant commentary on Hollywood, an industry that often creates empty and false illusions of fame and celebrity, making fun of the unquenchable yearning for relevance.

Iñárritu is a psychoanalyst, and clearly, it’s what makes him such an effective storyteller. You might say, it is this Mexican filmmaker’s expected virtue of understanding of what makes people tick. In an interview he gave to the Spanish newspaper “El País,” Iñárritu concedes that he is still not sure why his dark existential dramedy has had such acclaim. “It's hard to explain, I cannot be objective. In a world where irony reigns, where you have to separate, protect and laugh at anything that is honest or has an emotional charge, I bet for catharsis,” he says. “I like to invest emotionally in things. And catharsis, when it touches the emotional vein, can open the doors of even those who protect themselves.”

Supported by the deft and artistry of his team of collaborators which includes the great cinematographer and Oscar winner, Emmanuel “El Chivo" Lubezki and musician Antonio Sanchez, a longtime drummer for guitarist Pat Metheny, who was controversially declared ineligible for Oscar consideration, Iñárritu has capped the single greatest night for a Latino in Oscar history.

What is equally interesting is that outside of Inarritu’s s ability to direct, to write and to bring a story to life, Birdman is, in many ways, a reflection of his very own story. Here is a man who followed his passion. From the streets of Mexico City he was determined to challenge the norm even back then, working menial jobs on ships in order to travel to Toledo, Spain where he was subjected to sleep on park benches for lack of money. One cannot help but be inspired by this example of vision and perseverance.

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What was groundbreaking in 2006 when we saw the first Latinos, Iñárritu along with best friends Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, be nominated in the major categories at the Oscars, is now a norm. Perhaps the "new mainstream" is not so "new" anymore.

During a year when the Academy was marred by a lack of diversity, how wonderfully ironic that it was a Latino who won cinema's top prize.

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