Best Movies to Watch During Latinx Heritage Month

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From homophobia dramas in Peru to horror films about Guatemalan generals haunted by ghosts, Latinx films are almost as diverse as the cultures they represent.

Just in time for Latinx Heritage Month, the student group Latinx Film and Media Association of USC has put together a list of 10 movies to watch to celebrate Latin American culture, history, and people.

The list includes coming of age stories, political dramas, animated films, and psychological horror films. Each portrays Latinx characters with undertones that go beyond the stereotypical tropes of housekeepers, gardeners or gang members, said Vivian Mejia of the Latinx Film and Media Association.

The list also showcases the diversity within the Latinx identity, she added, which is important because lumping the population of an entire hemisphere into one entity erases individual people and cultures.

“Most of the time, Latin America is used interchangeably with Mexican – especially in the United States,” she said. “It erases people from other places like Bolivia or Venezuela who are just as beautiful and deserve their place on the screen.”

Here are the recommendations and where to distribute them, in no particular order:

I am no longer there (Ya No Estoy Aquí)

Synopsis: A drama about a teenager from Monterrey, Mexico, who emigrates to New York after an altercation with a local cartel.
Why it’s worth watching: This film captures the isolation felt by new immigrants to the United States, especially those fleeing traumatic situations. It also shows how immigrants find new communities and families in the United States.
Where to watch: Netflix

Real women have curves

Synopsis: The daughter of Mexican immigrants living in east Los Angeles struggles between her own dream of going to college and her mother’s wish for her to marry.
Why it’s worth watching: This is a classic story of the generational divide between first generation immigrants and their parents. Although it was released in 2002, the themes of dealing with family expectations, body image, and adolescence still hold true.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Book of life

Synopsis: An animated love story about a man who tries to come back from the dead to be with his love.
Why it’s worth watching: In many ways, it’s a precursor to Pixar coco. Book of life came out three years before coco and had a quarter of its budget. Some see it as a proof of concept, showing that there is an American audience for this type of story.
Where to watch: Disney +

Y Tu Mamá También

Synopsis: Two teenagers and an older woman embark on a road trip through Mexico.
Why it’s worth watching: Directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón, this film depicts Mexico at a time when the PRI political party that ruled Mexico for 70 years lost the presidential election. It shows class differences between the relatively wealthy protagonists and the rural communities they encounter.
Where to watch: Amazon prime

La Llorona

Synopsis: A Guatemalan general accused of war crimes is haunted by the ghost of a crying woman.
Why it’s worth watching: La Llorona was directed by a director of Guatemalan origin and was released in 2019, the same year the American film Curse of La Llorona has been freed. Both are based on the same folk tale, but the American version turns the ghost of a weeping woman into a monster; La Llorona honors folk tale by using it to explore themes of colonialism and feminism.
Where to watch: Available for rent on Amazon Prime

Altarpiece

Synopsis: A Peruvian toy maker and his son face homophobia in their rural community.
Why it’s worth watching: This film shows a Latinx culture fighting against homophobia. A close relationship between a father and son is tested when one catches the other having sex. Their inability to talk about it tests their once close relationship.
Where to watch: Netflix

Even the rain (También la Lluvia)

Synopsis: A group of filmmakers travel to Bolivia to make a film about colonialism and realize that little has changed since Europeans arrived in the New World.
Why it’s worth watching: People often think of colonialism as something that happened centuries ago. But this film shows how the legacy of colonialism manifests itself in different ways today. In this case, the fights over water rights and the treatment of indigenous peoples.
Where to watch: Netflix

Pelo Malo

Synopsis: A little boy struggles to straighten his curly hair.
Why it’s worth watching: Each culture has its own definition of beauty. This story of the insecure son of working-class parents makes us think about our own standards of beauty and what we impose on ourselves to feel beautiful.
Where to watch: Amazon prime

City of God

Synopsis: A story of crime and romance in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.
Why it’s worth watching: One of the many things that stand out from this cult classic is its portrayal of poverty. The film takes a humanistic and empathetic approach to the characters, even if they are imperfect. This forces the public to sympathize with people they might otherwise ignore in public.
Where to watch: Available for rent on Amazon Prime

El North

Synopsis: The siblings flee war-torn Guatemala to discover another kind of deadly threat in the United States.
Why it’s worth watching: This film was made in the 1980s, decades before DACA, the separation of the children and the border wall. This shows that many of today’s hot issues have been simmering for decades. The film also shows how immigrants who come to the United States don’t always end up living the American dream.
Where to watch: Available for rent on Amazon Prime

The Latinx Film and Media Association aims to empower Latinx filmmakers and those interested in Latinx film. To promote community and pride, LatiFAM organizes bi-monthly events such as social events, general assemblies, speakers, screenings and workshops. Their events help students within our network of organizations find new opportunities and hone their craft.

More stories on: Cinema, Latinx Heritage Month



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