Photo courtesy of Anhelo Producciones / IMDb

Hispanic Heritage Month: Latinx Films to Watch

Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month began on September 15, coinciding with the independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and lasts through October 15, allowing the independence days of Mexico, Chile, and Belize to all fall within the celebratory month. Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the celebration as a way to celebrate the Latino identity in the United States; a recognition of the massive immigrant population from Latin America, and an acknowledgement that the Latino identity is inextricably linked to the American identity.

While the prominence of the film industry varies greatly from country to country, over the years many great and often underappreciated films have come out of Latin America. To celebrate Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, here is a list of films that were produced in Latin America, were made by Latin American directors, or are about the Latino identity.

Title: Y tu mamá también (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Country of Origin: Mexico

Y tu mamá también is an early film of Cuarón, the director of Roma and Children of Men. It centers on two young men on a cross-country summer adventure as they learn more about each other and themselves. It is often considered the film that reintroduced Mexican cinema to the world stage.   

Title: The Secret In Their Eyes (2009)

Director: Juan José Campanella

Country of Origin: Argentina

Retired detective Benjamin Esposito begins writing a novel about an unsolved case of his involving the murder of a newlywed couple. As the book progresses, he has a startling realization. The film won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and was remade in the US in 2015.

Title: A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Director: Sebastián Lelio

Country of Origin: Chile

Lelio is one of Chile’s most prominent post-dictatorship directors. A Fantastic Woman, another Academy Award winner, is about Marina, a transgender woman who works as a waitress and singer while mourning the death of her older boyfriend, Orlando. 

Title: Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

Director: Ciro Guerra

Country of Origin: Colombia

Set in the early 1900s, Embrace of the Serpent tells the story of an Amazonian shaman, a German scientist, and his local guide as they search over the course of 40 years for a sacred healing plant. The movie is based on the diaries of explorers Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evans Schultes. It is notable for its depiction of often overlooked indigenious cultures of South America, and includes dialogue from four different indigenous dialects.

Title: City of God (2002)

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund

Country of Origin: Brazil

Set in 1970s Rio de Janeiro, City of God centers on two young men, one an aspiring photographer seeking to capture the life of violence and crime surrounding him, and the other a drug dealer seeking power and notoriety. While based on a novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, both works depict the real growth of organized crime in the late 1900s in Rio. 

Title: The Others (2001)

Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Country of Origin: USA

The Others, taking place on the English coast during World War II, is a Spanish-gothic retelling of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. Amenábar is the winner of nine Goya Awards and two European Film Awards.

Title: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Country of Origin: Spain/Mexico

From the director of The Shape of Water and Hellboy is Pan’s Labyrinth, a fantasy story about Ophelia, an 11-year-old girl, as she witnesses the cruelty of her stepfather, an army captain in Nazi-invaded Europe. Del Toro is known for his fantastical works, which tend to gain international critical acclaim.

Title: Amores Perros (2001)

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu 

Country of Origin: Mexico

Amores Perros is a psychological drama film, following three separate stories brought together by a car collision in Mexico City. 

Title: Wild Tales (2014)

Director: Damián Szifron

Country of Origin: Argentina

Wild Tales is an anthology of six separate stories about the extremities of human behavior. It won dozens of awards, including a BAFTA Award and a Goya Award.

Title: The Crime of Father Amaro (2002)

Director: Carlos Carrera

Country of Origin: Mexico

Father Amaro moves to a small Mexican town to help aid an elder Father Benito. Father Amaro discovers secrets of Father Benito and begins down his own path of temptation. Likely partly due to its controversy with the Roman Catholic Church, the film became the biggest box office draw in Mexico.

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