Latinos Score Oscars with their Original Scores

Fame Pictures

The right music can heighten a viewer’s emotional connection to any film, creating tension (remember Jaws?), fright, sadness and a host of other feelings from the safety of your seat. A handful of Argentine composers have not only succeeded in doing this, but have also nabbed Academy Awards nominations (or wins!) in the process.

Pianist Luis Bacalov got a nod for The Gospel According to St. Matthew in 1966. The arthouse film, about a gay Marxist Catholic, didn’t have much dialogue, which meant the eclectic music really needed to intensify the drama.

Then in 1985, arranger Jorge Calandrelli was nominated for adapting and orchestrating The Color Purple, an iconic movie about a black woman’s struggle for survival. The soundtrack overflowed with jazz and blues notes.

Fast-forward to 1995 and Luis Bacalov finally wins for the Mediterranean-set Il Postino, the tale of a postman who woos a woman with the poetry of Pablo Neruda. The romance was heightened by a bright, textured score featuring plenty of strings.

Powerhouse producer Gustavo Santaolalla was the next Latino to win, taking home an Oscar in 2005 for Best Music (Original Score) for Brokeback Mountain, a story about cowboys in love. His graceful country ballads achingly conveyed the longing between the two men. 

In 2006 Gustavo Santaolalla did it again, this time with Babel. The multi-layered movie, which interweaves the story of six different families, further haunts viewers thanks in part to Santaolalla’s intimate production.

Nominated this year in this same category are John Powel for How to Train Your Dragon, Hans Zimmer for Inception, Alexandre Desplat for The King’s Speech, A.R. Rahman for 127 Hours and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. Who do you think will win?

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About this author

Grace Bastidas, Deputy Editor

Born and raised in Queens, New York, where more languages are spoken than anywhere in the world, Grace Bastidas is Latina’s Deputy Editor. She oversees lifestyle content, including topics as diverse as career, health and relationships, and occasionally writes about her own experiences in The Good Life section. As a writer, Grace’s work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure. She is fluent in Spanish.

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