It’s Latino Heritage Month and it’s our time to shine! Here at Latinx Lens, we celebrate Latinos year-round, but we are joining everyone else in highlighting Latinos and providing them their well-deserved recognition. Since we celebrate our contribution and representation in film this month, I’ve decided to focus on Latino-centric and -created movies.
The following list (in no specific order) is comprised of films that delightfully surprised me and I would strongly recommend watching. Keep in mind that I’ve purposely left out films that tend to always make annual lists of films to watch during heritage month (Sorry Selena, Spy Kids & anything from the three amigos). If you don’t see one of your favorites in here, it’s because we may not have covered it in the podcast (yet) or if we have, then it’s one that makes lists every year. We’ve covered over 130 movies and narrowing it down to 20 was a difficult task. This is MY list, so it may differ from yours and that’s perfectly fine. Without further to do……..Enjoy!!!
Identifying Features (2020) – Directed by Fernanda Valadez. This is still my favorite movie of 2021. It follows a mother who decides to take matters into her own hands when she no longer hears from her son who’s decided to immigrate to the U.S. A movie whose impact still resonates with me such so that no other film has been able to dethrone it. Listen to episode 40 to hear my complete thoughts.
Retablo (2017) – Directed by Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio. This film follows a boy who wants to become a story-box maker like his father in Peru, but his life is forever changed when he discovers his father’s secret. A beautiful film (storywise and visually) depicting a vastly underrepresented demographic. Listen to episode 26 for full thoughts.
Ema (2019) – Directed by Pablo Larrain. This film follows a married couple that must live with their decision to return their adoptive child back. This film directly challenges social norms, internal misogyny, and finding your true self. Listen to episode 36 for further thoughts.
Bacurau (2019) – Directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendoca Filho. This Brazilian movie explores the socio-political dynamic of Bacurau (a fictional location). It’s daring, suspenseful, violent and a brilliant approach/blend of genres. Check out episode 15 for more thoughts.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019) – This film follows teenage Dora on a quest to find her parents who were on their way to explore the lost city of gold. An unexpected delight and an important watch for the young kids. More thoughts on our episode 7.
I’m No Longer Here (2019) – Directed by Fernando Frias. This film follows Ulises, a young man involved in a gang where they dance cumbias. Soon he must leave his home country for his family’s safety, and he embarks on a journey in New York where he must find his purpose. Listen to episode 15 for thorough thoughts.
Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (2019) – This is an insightful and honest documentary about one of the most influential Latinos in film, Danny Trejo. Retelling his beginning in making movies to constantly giving back to the community, this documentary is a must-watch. Trejo is easily one of the most hardcore and badass I’ve ever heard about. Listen to episode 5 for more thoughts.
La Llorona (2019) – Directed by Jayro Bustamante. This is a retelling of the legendary ghost revolving around an often ignored genocide on the Indigenous (Mayan). An all-around masterpiece from the premise, cinematography, and aesthetic. Listen to episode 15 for further praise.
Mosquita y Mari (2012) – Directed by Aurora Guerrero. This film follows two Chicanas who develop a friendship that may or may not evolve into something more. This is one of the most underrated films in recent memory and one worth noting. Listen to episode 24 to learn why this film connected with me.
Mucho Mucho Amor (2020) – This documentary will forever hold the title of being the first film I ever watched in any film festival. Following the life of the extraordinary Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, this doc was a dose of nostalgia I wasn’t fully prepared to endure. A Latino icon everyone should learn about. Listen to episode 5 to listen to my Sundance experience watching this movie.
Song without a Name (2019) – Directed by Melina Leon. This Peruvian film follows Georgina, a mother forced to take matters into her own hands after her newborn was taken away from her shortly after birth. Based on true events, this movie is heartbreaking, but gorgeously shot. Listen to episode 7 to know the profound impact it had on me.
Stand and Deliver (1988) – This might be the exception to the above rule. It’s one of the most influential and important films in my life. The significance of Jaime Escalante is immense and having a great like Edward James Olmos breathe life into him is out of this world. A movie whose impact is so important that I seriously wouldn’t know where I’d be right now. Listen to episode 2 to hear about its importance to me and to East LA.
The Mole Agent (2020) – This Chilean documentary by Maite Alberdi follows an 83-year-old man who’s hired to be a spy inside a nursing home. Seeking any signs of abuse from the nurses in the facility, the spy witnesses firsthand the abandonment many elders experience from their families. Listen to episode 15 for more thoughts.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) – Based on the book by the same name, this film follows a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara on a road trip coming to consciousness. Before becoming the well-known revolutionary, this trip across South America brought him face to face with social injustices. Listen to episode 21 for our thoughts on the film including our two cents on Gael Garcia Bernal’s interpretation of Guevara.
Zoot Suit (1981) – Directed and written by Luis Valdez, this musical highlights the Sleepy Lagoon trial. A movie from the Chicano perspective about the Chicano experience that is incredibly underrated. This movie opened my eyes to the Zoot Suit Riots and how these events are often ignored by mainstream media. Listen to episode 2 and find out why I was infuriated after watching this film (not with the film, but the school system).
Vivo (2021) – This animated film follows a kinkajou (Vivo) who embark on a journey to deliver a song on behalf of a friend. With songs written by Lin Manuel Miranda, this movie will have you dancing and vibing to Gabi’s personality. Listen to episode 37 to hear our overall thoughts on the film.
Plan B (2021) – Directed by Natalie Morales, this film follows two friends who go on a road trip to get a Plan B pill. This is still one of my favorite films of 2021. It’s a funny, heartfelt and timely depiction of friendship, female reproductive rights and family. Listen to episode 30 to hear our thoughts on the film and why it’s one of my favorites of the year.
Gueros (2014) – Directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios, this film follows a pair of brothers who decide to go on a trip to meet a musician they admire. The premise is simple, yet the style and overall aesthetic are spectacular. Listen to episode 29 to hear me drool all over this movie.
Vampires vs the Bronx (2020) – Directed and written by Osmani Rodriguez, this movie follows a group of teenagers who decide to defend their community after a threat of a vampire invasion. This is a great movie to get into the Halloween spirit. Listen to episode 11 for more thoughts.
Even the Rain (2010) – Directed by Iciar Bollain, this movie follows a filmmaker who goes to Bolivia to make a movie about Christopher Columbus, only to realize that the colonizing ramifications are still going strong and that many oppressive injustices haven’t changed much since the Spaniard first set foot in the Americas. A film worth watching, listen to episode 21 to find out why.