Hispanic Heritage Month, a cultural moment often overshadowed, began Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15. Hispanic filmmakers are one of the most acclaimed visionaries of film history, along with the French, of course; regardless, to say the like of Guillermo Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Alfonso Cuaron, Pablo Larraín, and the many other Hispanic moviemakers, these are the Emerald’s Spanish language films to watch this month. Stories about loss and love, about youth and self-discovery, sex and sexuality, the pain of growing and the challenge of being a person of color and carving out space for yourself.
“Real Women Have Curves”(2002)
Adapted from the stage play, Patricia Cardoso’s acclaimed indie film centers around the end of Ana García’s (America Ferrera) senior year of high school. Set in the fashion district of East Los Angeles, Ana García struggles with self-love as she steps into the factory that her mother, sister, and tías all work in — arguably a sweatshop. While there, she struggles to juggle her mother’s criticism surrounding her weight, her place in the world and her bright ambitions to go to college. The story can be claimed as the critical Latinx version of “Lady Bird,” both evocative stories depicting complex relationships between mothers and daughters. “Real Women Have Curves” went on to win the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Film along with the Special Jury Prize for Acting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.
“Y Tu Mamá También” (2001)
Starring the equally handsome and talented Mexican actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, along with the iconic Spanish actress Maribel Verdú, the film follows two best friends who take a road trip with a 20-something woman. The film is a coming of age story similar to that of “On The Road,” a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and sex amongst the backdrop of Mexico. The film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards and Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.
The film, based on “Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo” written by Hayden Herrera, stars powerhouses Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, respectively, as the complicated lovers Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Not only is this a delicately crafted film about complicated lovers, or its depiction of Frida Kahlo, but its velvet transition from film to art and back again breathes a specific light and life to the legacy of Frida Kahlo’s art; it is a whirlwind about art, love, sexuality, politics, heartbreak and everything more. It is a film to be seen over and over again, for its experimental additions of art and Salma Hayek’s otherworldly performance as Frida Kahlo. “Frida” won Academy Awards for both Best Makeup and Best Original Score, among being nominated for Best Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Music-Original Song.
The 1997 drama is about the life of acclaimed Mexican-American artist Selena Quintanilla-Pérez before she was murdered at the age of 23. This is arguably Jennifer Lopez’s greatest role and a film that was robbed of any Academy Awards, but Academy members aren’t ready for that conversation just yet. However, Jennifer Lopez did receive a nomination for Best Actress at the Golden Globes. This is an essential childhood film for many Latinx’s. It’s a comfort film, a legacy for Selena, and we dance and scream her lyrics, only for ‘Selenas.’
One of the most beautiful films to be created from Disney-Pixar on the basis of traditional Dia De Los Muertos traditions. It’s exhilarating, funny, heartfelt, lighthearted and heartbreaking at the same time. The familial struggle between different generations rings a little too close to home for many Latinx-Americans, but also brings a distant colorful memory of the importance of family as well as the significance of abuelos -or grandparents, and how their memory shines on, even once they’ve passed. “Coco” went on to win Best Original Song and Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards.
These are just a mere few beautifully made films created by Hispanic filmmakers, where their films hold an essence of shared experiences for more than just Hispanic people, they’re films with Spanish languages and traditions that hold an emotional toll that should connect to a broader audience. And by chance, once you’ve seen these films, support their casts and creators and discover more wonderful films made by Hispanic filmmakers.