Visionary Mexican Directors at Academy Awards

The 2007 slate of Academy Award nominees is the most ethnically diverse ever, including a record 19 nominations for Hispanics.

Spain's Penelope Cruz is up for best actress for her role in "Volver," from legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

But three visionary Mexican directors might steal the show, and we should look out for them on their way to becoming household names here.

"Babel," a drama by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that stars Brad Pitt, earned seven nominations, including for best picture. The intercontinental saga was filmed in five languages -- including sign language -- and offers a disturbing look at cultural and language barriers in the era of globalization.

"Pan's Labyrinth," by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, is nominated for six awards, including best foreign picture. In it, fascist soldiers in post civil war Spain torture rebels as a child fantasy underworld lurks nearby.

"Children of Men," set amid civil strife in crumbling, post-apocalyptic Britain, was directed by a third Mexican filmmaker -- Alfonso Cuaron -- and received three nominations.

The Mexican trio, Alfonso Cuaron, Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro, earned a combined 16 nominations for their three Oscar-nominated films. These three vanguard movies bring an edgy outsider's viewpoint to Sunday's Academy Awards telecast.

On the ABC News Now Hispanic news program, "Exclusiva," Cuaron, who is most famous for directing the third film in the Harry Potter series, talked about his work with the other Mexican directors. As it turns out, they have been friends and co-workers for a very long time.

All three directors seem to relish the ability to bring something different to an industry that often tends to back safer blockbuster bets. "Hollywood often makes socks," Cuaron said. "I work with the studios when they decide they want to make a film and not socks.

"In many ways, I think these three films are a trilogy," Cuaron said. "We read each other's scripts and it goes beyond that -- we are in each other's editing rooms, cutting ... editing from each other's film.

"I couldn't make a film without Alejandro and Guillermo telling me what to do. I think these three films share a sensibility about the world we live in and about humanity."

Diversity in Hollywood is not only a nod to globalism, it's good business. It may reflect the booming movie ticket sales around the world. American studios make more money from the overseas box office than they do from the U.S. take. In 2000, for instance, Hollywood sold about $7.66 billion worth of tickets in the United States compared with $12.2 billion overseas, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. In 2005, domestic ticket sales were $8.99 billion while international sales were $14.3 billion.

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