- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

“Children of Men” may seem like dystopian science fiction. The movie, which opens in theaters Christmas Day, is set in a future London in which no children have been born for 18 years.

However, that’s not how director Alfonso Cuaron sees his film, which stars Clive Owen.

“They sent me the material, but I didn’t really connect with it in terms of how to make a movie out of it,” he says during a recent visit to the District. “It was not until I realized that infertility, the premise, could be used as a metaphor for the failing sense of hope and the lack of historical perspective that humanity has. It could be a good point of departure, not to make a science-fiction film, but to make an exploration of the state of things today.”

“Children of Men” envisions a future in which war and global warming have ravaged the planet, creating refugees from all over the world.

The action takes place in 2027, but Mr. Cuaron says its concerns are very much those of today. “You don’t go very far without recognizing that two of the biggest issues are environment and immigration,” he argues. “We don’t talk about an immigration phenomenon, we talk about an immigration problem. We talk about all these people coming in to invade.”

Of course, Mr. Cuaron is himself an immigrant; the 45-year-old director was born in Mexico City but splits his time between London and Italy.

He made just one movie in Mexico before being tapped to direct films in Hollywood. After helming “A Little Princess” and “Great Expectations,” he returned to his native land to make “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” The 2001 film picked up a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film and an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Mr. Cuaron then adapted another British novel, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” J.K. Rowling herself has said it’s her favorite of the franchise.

Mr. Cuaron says he was asked recently if he has one foot in Hollywood and another in Mexican and independent films. He says he has both feet firmly in one place: examining the human condition.

Evoking his internationalist, humanist spirit, he cites pictures of the planet taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. “It doesn’t have colors or lines like all these maps they give us,” he remarks. Still, he acknowledges, “I’m very rooted in who I am and where I come from.”

A project he is developing about a notorious 1968 massacre of students in Mexico City had been scheduled to be the next film he shot, but he has put it on hold for now. He explains: “Before ‘Children of Men,’ I had never killed one single person in cinema. After doing this film, I have to clean myself from massacres. What you do during the day, you sleep at night with.”

It sounds as if the film, when it is made, will be close to the director’s heart. “For a Mexican of my generation, it’s like a big scar,” he says. “There’s a complexity there, and one reason I’m not doing it yet is that I have to bring that massacre into a contemporary thematic … It’s something timeless, something that’s repeating itself.”

It seems Mr. Cuaron can’t make a movie about the past or the future without helping us explore the present.

Zucker zaps Baker

Writer-director David Zucker has spoofed the disaster movie (1980’s “Airplane!”), the detective movie (1988’s “The Naked Gun”) and just about everything else (1977’s “The Kentucky Fried Movie”).

Then, in between installments of the “Scary Movie” franchise, Mr. Zucker started spoofing another subject: politics.

The longtime Democrat became a Republican a couple of years ago over national security. Since then, he has made a few ads attacking Democrats such as John Kerry and Madeleine K. Albright. His latest entry, posted this week at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w77sLtz754, takes on a Republican (or a “moderate,” in the parlance of the mainstream media) — Iraq Study Group co-chairman James A. Baker III.

The spoof starts with old newsreel footage. “It’s September 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiates a peace agreement with German madman Adolf Hitler,” a jaunty narrator says. “Well, that negotiation went well. Fifty million dead worldwide.”

The rest of the ad features actors in a “Saturday Night Live”-type comedy sketch: “Today, our American Iraq Study Group, led by James Baker III, proposes to negotiate a peace agreement with Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Don’t expect another comedy classic, though. The ad has a few funny lines. Mr. Baker is trying to get the Iranians to drop their nuclear weapons program. He’s satisfied when the Iranians offer, “What if we promise we won’t use them?”

But like those on “SNL,” the actors seem to have had little preparation before filming. They haven’t even tried to seem like the famous men they’re parodying.

Mr. Baker, a polished 76-year-old who served as secretary of state and the treasury, is played by a man who looks more like an overeager fiftysomething middle manager. The guy playing Mr. Ahmadinejad actually looks a bit like him, albeit with fluffier hair, but he seems rather too reasonable for a man who has said that “humanity will be free” once the nation of Israel disappears.

Perhaps that’s because Mr. Zucker has made Mr. Baker the villain of the piece. Or is it Chamberlain? The ad ends rather weakly, with a picture of Chamberlain with a red “no” sign.

Still, Mr. Zucker’s work appears to have been too hot to handle for the party with which he’s aligned. The Republican National Committee asked Mr. Zucker to make spoof ads, but his latest spot, which shows Mrs. Albright cozying up to Middle Eastern terrorists, proved too controversial for the RNC. The committee confirmed via e-mail that it didn’t pay for the ad attacking the man the president’s father made secretary of state.

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