National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from September 15th to October 15th in the United States for recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. Sadly, the representation of Hispanic and Latinx people continues to be extremely low in film and television. One of the things we can do about it is to support work about and created by Hispanic and Latinx people — and one way to do that is to watch hispanic movies.
Here’s a list of some must-watch films:
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Father of The Bride (2022)
This reimagining of the beloved franchise starring Steve Martin as the title character is not to be missed. Starring Andy Garcia as the father of the bride and Gloria Estefan as the mother of the bride, set in Miami with a predominantly Latinx cast, this film captures the Latinx male in the most fascinating way. Written by Matt Lopez based on the novel by Edward Streeter and directed by Gary Alazraki. The film also set a streaming-only movie record for HBO Max.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
America Ferrara’s first leading role, this indie gem written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo and directed by Patricia Cardoso is about an 18-year-old woman in East LA, struggling to be her own person and go to college while her mother just wants her to get married, have children and run the family textile factory.
Open Road (2012)
Excuse the shameless self-promotion, but this indie film starring Camilla Belle, Andy Garcia, and Juliette Lewis, directed by Marcio Garcia and written by Julia Camara is a tale of a young Brazilian woman living out of her car and traveling through the USA never wanting to settle down.
Expecting their first child, a Mexican-American couple moves to a migrant farming community in 1970s California where strange symptoms and terrifying visions threaten their new family. This social justice thriller is a timely and relevant film. Written by Marcella Ochoa and Mario Miscione and directed by Ryan Zaragoza.
The Second Mother (2015)
Written and directed by Anna Muylaert, this Brazilian film deals with class struggles when the estranged daughter of a hard-working live-in housekeeper suddenly appears, and the unspoken class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray.
Our Quinceañera (2020)
This documentary directed by Fanny Veliz Grande is about a high school principal in a small town in Texas who hosts a yearly Quinceañera for students that can’t afford it. The entire border town gets together to teach these girls that with the power of community any dream can come true.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
This black-and-white classic should get more attention as the film feels very current. Told from the perspective of the wife of a Mexican miner and union leader, the film follows as the workers struggle to keep the strike going against the company. The saving grace ends up being the women joining the fight. The film talks about machismo in the Latinx community, discrimination against Latinx people, and the power of unions. Written by Michael Wilson and directed by Herbert J. Biberman.
This documentary directed by Mariem Pérez Riera is a powerful look at the life and work of Rita Moreno from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this black-and-white Oscar winner is a compelling tale of a live-in housekeeper working for an upper-middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she starts preparing for motherhood, and there’s trouble with her own family. The film is visually stunning and based on Cuarón’s experiences as a child.
I Dream in Another Language (2017)
Written by Carlos Contreras and directed by Ernesto Contreras, the film is about a linguist who travels to the rainforest in Mexico, to try to record and understand Zikril, a fictional indigenous language that is dying in the region. When he arrives he discovers the last two speakers of Zikril have refused to speak to each other for the last 50 years because they both love the same woman.
Raising Victor Vargas (2002)
Written by Peter Sollett and Eva Vives and directed by Peter Sollett, this indie film is about a
Lower East Side teenager who struggles to find some sanity while surrounded by an eccentric grandmother, a crazy new girlfriend, and a longing younger brother.
El Mariachi (1992)
This film was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and is also his first film. Rodriguez also did nearly everything but act in this film which cost roughly $7,000. The film is about a traveling mariachi who is mistaken for a murderous criminal and must hide from a gang bent on killing him.
Growing Fangs (2021)
This twenty-minute short film written and directed by Ann Marie Pace and starring Cristela Alonzo is streaming on Disney+ and deals with identity using vampires to talk about race. The film is about a teenage girl struggling to hide her identity as a vampire from her human best friend, as she starts a new school for vampires. She soon realizes it’s not as easy to fit in with students there as she thought.
Wild Tales (2014)
Written by Germán Servidio and Damián Szifron, directed by Damián Szifron, and produced by Pedro Almodóvar, this Spanish-language film consists of six separate stories that explore the extremities of human behavior involving people in distress. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past, and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they lose control.
Like Water For Chocolate (1992)
Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel and directed by Alfonso Arau, this film has elements of magical realism and is about a young woman who is forbidden from marrying the man she loves. He marries her sister instead and the situation creates much tension in the family until her emotions begin to surface in fantastical ways through her cooking.
Brie’s Bake Off Challenge (2022)
Written and directed by Emily Aguilar, this diverse family film is about Brie Hayes, who is an aspiring baker and wishes to win her school’s Spring Bake Off Challenge. Troubles ensue when Brie’s confidence reaches an ultimate low and her arch nemesis, Vanessa, does everything she can to slim Brie’s chances of winning.
The Latinx experience is not a monolith — and finding films that have diverse and inclusive Hispanic representation in front of and behind the camera is key to appreciating the culture. And if you’re working on your own stories, learn how to lean into Latinx inclusivity in your screenwriting.
Julia Camara is an award-winning Brazilian screenwriter/filmmaker. Julia won a Telly Award for the sci-fi found footage feature Occupants. Julia’s feature directorial debut In Transit, won Best Experimental Film at four different festivals. Julia’s other writing credits include Area Q and Open Road.