Who was the last person you saw on screen? Chances are, it wasn’t a Latino actor.
Less than 6% of all U.S. film roles in 2021 were given to Latinos, even if Latinos are about 17% of the U.S. population, according to the latest report from UCLA. Despite this, Latinos still love movies and made up about 24% of moviegoers that year, according to the latest report from the Motion Picture Association.
Nevertheless, Latinos have always been a central part of the movie industry. Movies, like other kinds of media, have the extraordinary power of making culture concrete and letting us understand someone else’s experience without having to live through it.
Because of this, the Record-Journal is running a four-part series where I (a living, breathing Hispanic) suggest to you what media you should consume to celebrate Hispanic culture.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of all things Guillermo Toro or have never seen a movie with subtitles, here are five well-loved movies to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. These movies have all been widely acclaimed and won countless awards, but I put them on this list because they are all made by Latinos about Latinos.Animation - “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023) directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson
The animated sequel to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse '' follows the adventures of Myles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) who struggles through the difficulties of growing up Afrolatino in Brooklyn while also having to figure out how to be Spider-man. During the movie, he meets other Spider-People from different dimensions, each with their own unique animation style. Beyond the gorgeous animation and the relatable growing pains, the movie explores the struggles that many Latino kids face as they confront the high expectations of their families and the feeling of not belonging anywhere. Comedy - “Instructions Not Included” (2013) directed by Eugenio Derbez
“Instructions Not Included” is a heartwarming Mexican-American comedy-drama directed by and starring Eugenio Derbez. The film revolves around Valentin, a carefree playboy in Acapulco, whose life takes an unexpected turn when one of his former flings leaves him with a baby girl. As Valentin embarks on a journey of fatherhood, the film seamlessly blends humor and touching moments, exploring themes of love, family, and personal growth.Drama - “No” (2012) directed by Pablo Larraín
“No” (2012), directed by Pablo Larraín, is a compelling political drama set in Chile during the late 1980s. The film follows the story of an advertising executive who spearheads a groundbreaking campaign to oust the authoritarian regime of Augusto Pinochet through a historic referendum, showcasing the power of marketing and democracy in the face of oppression. Nominated for the Oscar in 2013 for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the movie itself is told through the visual language of the eighties and and is a fascinating portrayal of how hope can change politics.Satire - “John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons” (2018) directed by Aram Rappaport
Comic and actor John Leguizamo examines Hispanic culture through more than 3,000 years of American history in his one-man show “Latin History for Morons.” Leguizamo wrote the show to help teach his son about his own heritage and performed it for over six years all over the country. Filmed as a stand-up special, the show is hilarious, dirty and occasionally heartfelt. Documentary - “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” (2021) directed by Mariem Pérez Riera
The documentary follows Rita Moreno during her early career and Oscar-winning performance as Anita in “West Side Story.” Despite the difficulties of the industry, Moreno went on to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony to achieve coveted EGOT status –the second woman and third person to do so. The documentary includes candid interviews with Moreno and a fascinating portrayal of Hollywood.
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re. To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.