Mexicans hail Oscars as sign of cultural sway despite Trump

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 US President Donald Trump.

Del Toro's best director win for 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 film had 13 nominations and won a total of four Academy Awards, including best picture.

Hollywood's accolades for Mexican film-makers are in contrast to Mr Trump's repeated attacks on the US' southern neighbour. The verbal attacks began when he launched his campaign saying Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers.

In his acceptance speech, del Toro took a veiled dig at Mr Trump, who wants to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration.

"The greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand," he said. "We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper."

Latinos in the US and Mexicans back home cheered the win. Exuberant fans paraded around his native Guadalajara with a giant replica Oscar.

"He is a monster of film-making," beamed Mr Cesar Cosio, a DJ and friend who grew up in the same neighbourhood as Del Toro. "It is very deserved. I am so grateful for this moment, watching Guillermo triumph, lifting that statuette. It couldn't have happened at a better time. I think it is his best work to date."

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who has blasted Mr Trump's plan for a border wall, took to Twitter after del Toro's win to needle the US 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," Mr Fox said.

The success of animated feature Coco was also celebrated for bringing Mexican traditions into the Disney pantheon.

The Disney-Pixar film was a box-office smash, raking in more than US$700 million (S$921 million) worldwide.

It 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 towards a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look, 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 directors Cuaron and Inarritu - the trio are known in the industry as The Three Amigos - began making films in Mexico in the 1990s, the industry was nearly dead, churning out a handful of films a year. Now, Mexico's industry produces around 150 films a year. - REUTERS/AFP