(Adds reaction in Mexico city, background)
By Bill Tarrant
LOS ANGELES, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron won the best director Oscar on Sunday for his semi-autobiographical film, "Roma," which also won awards for foreign language film and cinematography.
He paid tribute to the 70 million domestic workers around the world and to indigenous women in his acceptance speech. "I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman," he said. "A character that has historically been relegated to the background of cinema."
Cuaron, 57, was the favorite for the directing Oscar after winning prizes at the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Awards, and BAFTAs for his lusciously shot black-and-white portrait of a domestic worker who cares for a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.
Cuaron has said the film, made in Spanish and an indigenous language, was inspired by his own memories of growing up with his family in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. He also wrote, produced, and co-edited the film, which was made with mostly amateur or little known actors.
Cheers echoed through Mexico's Colonia Roma when the film took home multiple Oscars, but revelers let out a disappointed sigh when the best actress prize did not go to Yalitza Aparicio, the indigenous star of the film.
In a payback for Cuaron's tribute to growing up among Roma's handsome villas and apartment blocks, city officials set up giant screens in a park to show the broadcast live from Los Angeles.
In a November 2018 Reuters interview, Cuaron called the film "the story of one of the human beings that I love the most. One of the women that raised me." The Netflix movie was the most personal of the films directed by Cuaron, whose career began in television in Mexico in the early 1990s.
Moving between Mexico and Hollywood, Cuaron's movies have spanned a range of styles and subject matter, including the sexually explicit road movie "Y Tu Mama Tambien," an adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," box office smash "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and the space thriller "Gravity," which won Oscars in 2014 for directing and sound editing.
He is the first filmmaker in the history of the Academy Awards to win an Oscar for both directing and cinematography for the same film. He is also now one of 21 directors who have won at least two Oscars for directing in the 91-year history of the Academy Awards.
Cuaron beat four other nominated directors: Spike Lee for "BlacKkKlansman," Adam McKay for "Vice," Yorgos Lanthimos for "The Favourite," and Pawel Pawlikowski for "Cold War." (Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Bill Tarrant; Editing by Sandra Maler)