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Arts

Top movies to watch during Latinx Heritage Month

Students from the Latinx Film and Media Association of USC came up with 10 movies to watch while celebrating Latinx Heritage Month.

September 20, 2021 Gustavo Solis

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

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

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

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

“A lot of the time, Latin American is used interchangeably with Mexican — especially in the United States,” she said. “That erases people from other places like Bolivia or Venezuela who are equally beautiful and deserving of their place on the screen.”

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

I’m No Longer Here (Ya No Estoy Aquí)

Synopsis: A drama about a teenager from Monterrey, Mexico, who migrates to New York City after a run-in with a local cartel.
Why it’s worth watching: This film captures the isolation new immigrants feel in the United States, particularly those fleeing from traumatic situations. It also shows how immigrants find new communities and families in the U.S.
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 get married.
Why it’s worth watching: This is a classic story of the generational divide between first-generation immigrants and their parents. Although it came out in 2002, the themes of dealing with family expectations, body image and adolescence still hold up.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Book of Life

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

Y Tu Mamá También

Synopsis: Two teenage boys and an older woman embark on a road trip through Mexico.
Why it’s worth watching: Directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, this movie depicts Mexico during 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 come across.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

La Llorona

Synopsis: A Guatemalan general accused of war crimes is haunted by the ghost of a weeping woman.
Why it’s worth watching: La Llorona was directed by a Guatemalan-born director and came out in 2019, the same year the American film Curse of La Llorona was released. Both draw inspiration from the same folktale, but the American version turns the ghost of a weeping woman into a monster; La Llorona honors the folktale by using it to explore themes of colonialism and feminism.
Where to watch: Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Retablo

Synopsis: A Peruvian toy maker and his son deal with homophobia in their rural community.
Why it’s worth watching: This film shows a Latinx culture struggling to deal with homophobia. A close relationship between a father and son is tested when one of them catches the other having a sexual encounter. Their inability to talk about this tests their once-close relationship.
Where to watch: Netflix

Even the Rain (También la Lluvia)

Synopsis: A group of filmmakers go to Bolivia to make a movie about colonialism only to realize not much has changed since Europeans landed 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, fights over water rights and the treatment of indigenous people.
Where to watch: Netflix

Pelo Malo

Synopsis: A little boy struggles with straightening his curly hair.
Why it’s worth watching: Every 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 put ourselves through in order 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 in this cult classic is its depiction of poverty. The film takes a humanistic and empathetic approach to the characters, even if they are flawed. It forces the audience to empathize with people they might otherwise ignore in public.
Where to watch: Available to rent on Amazon Prime

El Norte

Synopsis: Siblings flee war-torn Guatemala only to find a different kind of deadly threat in the United States.
Why it’s worth watching: This movie was made in the 1980s, decades before DACA, child separation and the border wall. It shows that many of today’s hot button issues have been simmering for decades. The film also shows how immigrants who come to the United States do not always end up living out the American Dream.
Where to watch: Available to 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 hosts bimonthly events such as socials, general meetings, guest speakers, screenings, and workshops. Their events help students within our organization network, find new opportunities, and hone their craft.