Mamá to Madre? ‘Roma’ Subtitles in Spain Anger Alfonso Cuarón | Modern Society of USA

Mamá to Madre? ‘Roma’ Subtitles in Spain Anger Alfonso Cuarón

Mamá to Madre? ‘Roma’ Subtitles in Spain Anger Alfonso Cuarón

If you complain to Netflix, the streaming giant listens. At least it does if you’re Alfonso Cuarón, the Golden Globe-winning director of “Roma.”

In the film, set in Mexico City in the 1970s, the actors speak Mexican Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language. For that Spanish, Netflix added subtitles in Castilian, Spain’s main dialect, for the release in that country. On Wednesday, Netflix removed those Castilian subtitles after Cuarón told El País, a Spanish newspaper, that they were “parochial, ignorant and offensive to Spaniards themselves.”

Even commonly understood words like “mamá,” for mother, had been translated (in that case to “madre”) as were the words for “get angry” and “you.”

“Gansito,” the name of a Mexican chocolate snack, was perhaps more accidentally changed to “ganchitos,” a cheese puff.

There were two problems with the subtitles, he said. The first was the assumption Spanish people could not understand simple words in a different dialect.

“It’s like if you have an American film showing in the U.K. and the character says he’s going to the washroom, but the subtitles say he’s going to the loo,” Soler said in a telephone interview. “It’s ridiculous. They’re treating the people of Spain like they’re idiots.”

But he said the bigger problem was that the subtitles played into the history of Spanish colonialism.

“In Latin America we have an extreme sensitivity with everything Spain does,” Soler said, “and in Spain they treat Latin American people like they’re still a colony.” Netflix’s choice to change Mexican words felt just like that, he added.

Similar problems occurred decades ago, Soler added, when Spanish book publishers first translated works by Latin American authors like Julio Cortázar. But he thought it had long stopped.

Not everyone agrees. “It is possible the controversy has been magnified beyond what is reasonable,” Pedro Álvarez de Miranda, a member of the governing board of the Royal Spanish Academy, the guardian of language in Spain, said in an email. He added that he was not offended when he saw “Roma” in a cinema, he was simply distracted because the words onscreen didn’t match what he heard.

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