Mam in Madre? Subtitles of Roma in Spain Anger Alfonso Cuarn

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If you complain to Netflix, the streaming giant is listening. At least, this is the case if you are Alfonso Cuarón, the director of "Roma", winner of the Golden Globe.

In the film, which takes place in Mexico in the 1970s, the actors speak Mexican Spanish and the Mixtec indigenous language. For this Spanish, Netflix has added subtitles in Castilian, the main dialect of Spain, for release in this country. On Wednesday, Netflix removed these subtitles in Castilian after Cuarón told the Spanish newspaper El País that they were "parish, ignorant and offensive to the Spaniards themselves".

Even words commonly understood as "mama", for mother, had been translated (in this case, "madre"), as were the words "get angry" and "you".

"Gansito", the name of a Mexican chocolate snack, may have been changed more accidentally into "ganchitos", a puff of cheese.

"Something that I appreciate most is the color and texture of the accents," Cuarón told El País. "It's as if Almodóvar needed to be subtitled," he added, evoking the famous Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar.

Cuarón would not comment on this article, but Bebe Lerner, his representative, said in a phone interview that Cuarón had asked Netflix to change the subtitles as soon as he was there. would have learned after an event in New York on Tuesday night.

The subtitles currently available for the Spanish dialogue in Spain are the closed captions – the form that benefits those who are hard of hearing or deaf. These present the Mexican-Spanish dialogue in its original form. (These subtitles are available since the release of the movie.)

Netflix would not answer questions about its use of Castilian for "Roma" or other movies and TV shows purchased in Latin America.

The problem was discovered for the first time in December by Jordi Soler, a Mexican writer living in Barcelona. he tweeted that the subtitles were "paternalistic, offensive and deeply provincial" after seeing a "Roma" subtitled in a Barcelona cinema.

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

"It's like you're showing an American movie in the UK and that character says he's going to the bathroom, but the subtitles say he's going to the bathroom," Soler said. during a telephone interview. "It's ridiculous, they treat the Spaniards like idiots."

But he said the biggest problem was that subtitles were playing in the history of Spanish colonialism.

"In Latin America, we are extremely sensitive to everything Spain does," Soler said. "In Spain, they treat Latin Americans as if they were still a colony." Netflix's choice to change the Mexican words felt exactly like that, he added.

Soler added that similar problems occurred decades ago, when Spanish book publishers translated for the first time works by Latin American authors such as Julio Cortázar. But he thought it had stopped for a long time.

Everyone is not in agreement. "It is possible that the controversy has been amplified beyond what is reasonable," said Pedro Álvarez de Miranda, a member of the board of directors of the Royal Spanish Academy, in an email. languages ​​in Spain. He added that he was not offended when he saw "Roma" in a cinema, he was simply distracted because the words on the screen did not match what he had heard.

"There is no standard Spanish," he said, and there is no major difference between dialects.

"Spanish language films – whatever their country of origin – do not need to be" translated "," he said. "A Spaniard can see a film shot in Argentina, Colombia or Mexico without any particular difficulties. And the opposite. "

But the controversy raises the broader question of how Netflix subtitles movies and series as it grows worldwide and whether to use official language forms or to respect local dialects and slang. . Last month, she released "The Protector", her first original series in Turkish. The Turkish TV groups on Facebook suggested that the English subtitles did not match what the characters said, even when they swore.

Ioanna Sitaridou, a lecturer in Spanish and Linguistics at Cambridge University, of Greek and British nationality, said that Netflix's refusal to use Mexican Spanish in "Roma" was scandalous. The variety of dialects in all languages ​​should be celebrated, she said, not deleted.

"Netflix basically sends the message that the way we speak is no better than the way we write, and it's a very old idea," she said.

She added, "How many times will this continue around the world? People who speak a minority and non-standard language can not help but think that their mother tongue is not good enough. "