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Alfonso Cuarón never expected a film about his childhood, from the point of view of his family housekeeper (Libo in real life, Cleo onscreen), to strike such a nerve. “I was making a very specific film, about a very specific character, in the framework of a very specific family, in a very specific society, in a very specific country, in a very specific timeframe of history,” he noted in Written By. “Also, it’s in Spanish and Mixtec, it’s a drama in black and white, and it’s Mexican. It’s not like there’s a huge market for that kind of film.” After immersing himself in memories and extensive interviews with Libo, he wrote the script in three weeks, “without any consideration of structure, narrative, character arcs, or anything. Just letting it flow, coming from almost like a subconscious experience…and trusting that if a new memory arises, it is relevant.”

READ: For Alfonso Cuarón, home is where the art is.