Monday, August 6, 2018

The Best Latina-Theme Movies in America

By José Alberto Hermosillo
The Best Latina-Theme Movies in America Festival in LA © 2018
In recent years, the classic stereotyping roles of Latinas in Hollywood seem to be fading – The cliché characters are now part of the past. No more nannies, naïve women who marry the wealthy white male, and of course the cholas, gang bangers, housekeepers, aliens, robbers, drug dealers, and the illiterate immigrants from Latin America.

Eventually, more visionary Latinos and non-Latinos directors are producing more movies, changing the ship with a whole new perspective about Latinas in Hollywood. A place where one day, we hope, the race will no longer be an issue. 
 
In the "New Latin Cinema," Latinas are now performing the lawyers, journalists, police officers, students, healers, hip-hop singers, renown chefs, and above-all, dreamers
 

In those relatively new films, the names of many important Latina actresses stand-out: Salma Hayek, Eva Mendez, Sofia Vergara, Kate del Castillo, Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana, Aimee Garcia, Gina Rodriguez, America Ferrera, Elpidia Carrillo and many more.

Surprisingly, during our research, we found that many of these original Latina-themed films are not making enough money at the box-office to recuperate the investment. We want to think that the lack of profitability is one of the main reasons why studios and investors do not continue making those highly valued productions.

However, we need to continue making those “marvelous gems” with Latinas in it, to keep the unsung voices alive.

Nowadays, Latina movies are generating a favorable revenue in the streaming services thanks to the immense buzz of word-of-mouth of parents and teachers, people in the industry, critics and the passionate writings of many enthusiastic movie aficionados who are helping to gain a much broader audience, and motivate the people to watch those beautiful flicks online for a second chance viewing.

A few months back, to celebrate Mother's Day in Downtown Los Angeles, the charming film "Luminarias" directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, had a free screening with the cast and crew. This event makes us think, why are we not producing a stunning all-Latina-cast movie like this every year?


Perhaps we can start a new tradition of creating quality films like “Luminarias” that can propel the new generation of talented Latinas into the film industry.

Now, Latinos can feel very proud of their rich cinema, exported to the rest of the world. 

The selection of the Latina-themed movies represents a kaleidoscopic collection of whimsical, vibrant, colorful, flavorful and compelling films.

The Best
Latina-Theme Movies
in
America
Are:
     
    1. “Filly Brown,” USA, (2012). Directed by Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos.

    “Filly Brown” recounts the personal journey of young Maria Jose ‘Majo’ Tonorio, a talented hip-hop rhymer. Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), who is struggling to break-in the music industry while her mother, Maria Tonorio (Jenni Rivera) is in prison.

    The motion picture transcends its well-executed script, the music evolution, and the dominant performances, including the ones by Lou-Diamond Phillips, Emilio Rivera, Khool Aid Rios, and Edward James Olmos.

    The upbeat film is considered a footprint for the empowerment of Latinas and stands in-between the musicality of Eminem's “8 Mile” and the prison experience shown in “American Me” by James Olmos.

    2. “Real Women Have Curves,” USA, (2002). Directed by Patricia Cardoso, based on a play by Josefina Lopez.

    Exquisitely written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo. The highly-praised, coming-of-age drama breaks barriers of gender, generation, and stereotypes.

    Through its many layers, the heartfelt story recounts the life of a hard-working young Latina and the decisions she has to make: to stay with her Mexican-American family and work with them or go to college as any other “American girl.” 

    America Ferrara achieves a breakthrough performance, Lupe Ontiveros ("As Good as It Gets," "The Goonies") played a very strict mother. She is extraordinary, and Ingrid Oliu as the older sister is exceptional as well.

3. “Luminarias,” USA, (2000). Directed by José Luis Valenzuela.

Charming and genuine, “Luminarias” has captivated audiences with its “diversity” and the richness of every character who leaves a long-standing impression on the viewer.

The feel-good comedy delicately stands for interracial marriage, equality, and women empowerment. 

The all-star cast-ensemble includes Evelina Fernandez, Marta DuBois, Angela Moya, Dyana Ortelli, Seidy Lopez, and the memorable Lupe Ontiveros. They played four passionate and professional Latinas delightfully, as they come together to tête-à-tête on dating, love, and “Sex in the City of East Los Angeles.”

Those lovable women open up their hearts to everyone, including to themselves.

    4. “María Full of Grace,” Colombia, USA, Ecuador, (2004). Directed by Joshua Marston (Forgiveness of Blood, Come Sunday”).

    An engrossing, provocative, vivid, heartless, brutal work of art that will make you look at life differently.

    Oscar© nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno plays Maria Alvarez, a pregnant young woman who risks her life when she is hired by the drug cartel to introduce drugs as a mule from Colombia to the United States.

    As the film unfolds vigorously, we can see how women overcome oppression in two very hostile, different and unrelated countries.  

5. “My Sister’s Quinceanera,” USA, (2013). Directed by Aaron Douglas Johnston.


The minimalistic, coming-of-age story chronicles the life of a family of five preparing for their sister's fifteenth birthday in rural Iowa. The single mother works all day, and the older brother Silas Garcia takes care of the little ones. Silas feels the urge to leave town in search of a better future, but he is also attached to the promise to stay with his sister for her quinceañera celebration.

6. “East Side Sushi,” USA, (2014). Directed by Anthony Lucero.

A beautifully crafted, independent film about the challenges that a single Mexican mother has to go through to achieve her dreams and provide a better life for her family, in a world dominated by men.

Masterfully directed by Anthony Lucero, the “fusion drama” mixes the Latino and the Asian culture easily. 

The performance of Diana Elizabeth Torres as a sushi chef is delightful.

The distribution in the U.S. was not entirely effective as it was in the Mexican market, where the film, shot in Oakland, California, became a massive success with the ingenious idea of renaming it to a “Sushi a la Mexicana” or “Mexican Sushi.”  

    7. “Tortilla Soup,” USA, (2011). Directed by Maria Ripoll.

    “Tortilla Soup” is an enjoyable family-comedy about three sisters, Leticia (Elizabeth Peña), Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors), and Maribel (Tamara Bello). The household has to confront some challenges as their father, Hector Elizondo, a renowned chef, loses his sense of gusto and olfato (taste & smell).

    The feel-good movie steps away from the original Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man & Woman” by blending Latin food, Brazilian music, and the stylish Californian lifestyle, elements that make this film a real treat for the spectator.

8. “Woman on Top,” USA, (2000). Directed by Fina Torres (Celestial Clockwork,” “Liz in September”).

Penelope Cruz is steamy hot, as she plays this Brazilian chef Isabella Oliveira. She had to run from her husband in Bahia to start a new life in San Francisco. There, she will meet a young and talented American producer who helps her start the successful cooking show “Passion Food.”

The trailer of the film is catchy, mixing food, humor, and light sexual substance. “Your mouth will water, your lips will burn, and your heart will race.”

    9. “Beatriz at Dinner,” USA, (2017). Director Miguel Arteta (“Star Maps, Youth in Revolt).

    Salma Hayek is a holistic, middle-aged woman searching for relevance in modern-day society. As she gets stranded at a fancy dinner with a very powerful political mogul, she realizes that she has nothing to lose and plenty to gain. So, she will try to get her idealistic and political points of view across.

    The hefty stereotypes and ambiguity of the central character was a big turn-off for many viewers; while some others applauded the fact that this movie was brave enough to tackle the subjects of ecology, inequality, personal growth, and freedom for all.

    This independent film gained relevance for being one of the first 2016 post-electoral movies making explicit reference to the person in power.

    10. “La Misma Luna,” Mexico-USA, (2007). Director Patricia Riggen (“The 33,” “Miracles from Heaven”).

    Kate del Castillo portrays a domestic worker in Los Angeles while her son Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) will try to reunite with her months later. The child’s epic journey across the desert takes twists and turns in a highly emotional border-drama and meeting some other fantastic characters. 

    The film explores the necessities that migrant families have to endure to remain together.

    The excellent cast includes Eugenio Derbez, America Ferrera, Jesse Garcia, Maya Zapata, Carmen Salinas, Mario Almada, and Los Tigres del Norte. 

   11. “Quinceañera,” USA, (2006). Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, (“Still Alice”).

    On the eve of Magdalena’s Quinceñera (Emily Rios) faces a miracle pregnancy. Her father, a strict preacher, won’t allow such conduct, forcing her to move out, to live in the house of her Great Uncle Tomas. There, her tough-cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia) lives and does what he pleases.

    The naturalistic and beauty of this coming-of-age story received recognition at the Sundance Film Festival by showing the dilemma of a teen-pregnancy and the illusion of having a 15th birthday celebration. While her cousin Carlos has a difficulty of his own: to continue his gay-lifestyle or be part of the barrio’s gang-bangers. 

    The importance of this eye-opening teen drama resides in observation, intolerance and the confrontation between generations.

    12. “Nine Lives,” USA, (2005). Directed by Rodrigo García (Last Days in the Desert, Mother and Child, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her). 

    Influenced by the director’s father (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) the magical realism of this minimalistic collection of vivid vignettes unfolds a profound depiction of the lives of nine fascinating women. They are isolated by an invisible wall, built by their own fears. They are also interconnected by the miracle of life and the meaning of being a woman.

    The fantastic cast includes Glen Close, Amanda Seyfried, Robin Wright, Holly Hunter, Molly Parker, and Elpidia Carrillo.

   13. “Trade,” Germany-USA-Mexico, (2007). Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner (“Summer Storm”). Adapted by Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”).
     
    “Trade” is a film of intoxicating beauty and great courage. It is also known as “The Girls Next Door,” a vivid exposé on human trafficking.

    The compelling story follows the ordeal of a kidnapped girl named Adriana, Paulina Gaitan ("Sin Nombre," "Narcos") and her desperate brother Jorge, Cesar Ramos ("4 Moons"), who tails the captors from Mexico all the way into the United States to save her.

    This ambitious flick has no mercy addressing the global problem of human trafficking where good and bad people interact in a long-lasting journey. Actor Marco Perez from “Amores Perros” is stunning as one of the kidnappers. The rest of the cast is extraordinary as well, including Kevin Kline, Kate del Castillo, Kathleen Gati, and Guillermo Ivan.

   14. “Americano,” France, (2011). Directed by Mathieu Demi.    
     
    “Americano” is a beautiful and meaningful story that connects every character’s hidden past with an uncertain present, centering on the life of two incredible women and the man who can place the puzzle together.   

    After the passing of his mother, an American/French man embarks on a personal journey, searching for the truth. He returns from Paris to California to sell her apartment, only to find out a relationship his mother had with Lola (Salma Hayek), an enigmatic woman from Tijuana.

    15. “Elegy,” USA, (2008). Director Isabel Coixet. (“My Life Without Me,” “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo”).

    A sophisticated and exquisite adaptation of Roth’s novella “The Dying Animal,” “Elegy” centers on a relationship between a mature professor David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) and a young Cuban student, Consuela Castillo, (Penelope Cruz).
    
Consuela’s education and good-manners are put aside to a compulsive sexual obsession between the student and the professor. The state-of-affairs turns into an elegy for the lost causes of forbidden love, poetically speaking.

16. “Girl in Progress,” USA, (2011). Patricia Riggen (“The 33,” “Miracles from Heaven”).

    A heartfelt, captivating movie with universal values. Eva Mendez is Grace, a single, hard-working mother who has to deal with her all-of-the-sudden teenager daughter Ansiedad, (Cierra Ramirez). As Grace falls for a married doctor, the daughter has to find maturity on her own. In this story, we learn that children can make mistakes and mothers, too. 

    The magnificent cast includes Matthew Modine, Patricia Arquette, and Eugenio Derbez.

    17. “Go for It,” USA, (2011). Directed by Carmen Marron (Endgame). 

    “Go for It” is the story of a Mexican-American young woman into the hip-hop culture. The name of the girl is Carmen (Aimee Garcia), a junior-college student in Chicago who has to confront her family and society to reach for her dreams. Her best friend Gina (Gina Rodriguez) has to deal with domestic violence.

    Being underprivileged does not mean that they can’t reach for higher stakes. Whether wrong or right, it is their lives.
   
    Young viewers identify with the choices the characters have to make. 
   18. “Bordertown,” USA, (2006). Directed by Gregory Nava (“Mi Familia,” “Selena”).

   This eye-opening film intends to tell what happened with the murders of the “Women of Juarez,” an unpleasant exposition of the truth.

    Jennifer Lopez portrays a brave American journalist from the ‘Chicago Sentinel’ who is trying to uncover what’s behind the fatalities by rape and torture of many young women in Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, Texas border. The terrific cast includes Antonio Banderas, Maya Zapata, and Martin Sheen.

    19. “Bless Me, Ultima,” USA, (2013). Directed by Carl Franklin (“Out of Time,” “Devil in a Blue Dress”).

    Magical realism transcends borders and time with the beautiful adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s novella, “Bless Me, Ultima.” The controversial and forbidden book is attached to the Latino roots of many of the inhabitants of New Mexico who consider it a modern classic.

    In the middle of a battle between good and evil in a small town of New Mexico, a young man attaches himself to the lessons of life he gets from an elderly and wise medicine woman or “curandera.”

    The people in town seriously believe Ultima is a wicked witch. They want to bring her to their justice, while the family is having a drama of their own with many wounded soldiers returning from WWII.
  
    Miriam Colon is terrific as Ultima, Dolores Heredia as Maria, Benito Martinez, Joaquin Cosio, Reko Moreno, and Luke Ganalon as young Antonio.

    20. “La Guapa/Thou Shalt Not Kill,” USA, (2014). Directed by Kenneth Castillo (“Marigold the Matador,” “Counterpunch,” and “Confession of a Gangster”).  

    A film that mixes crime, family-drama, and a thriller – all genres in one great action ultra-low budget flick. The complex characters keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
   
    The terrific cast includes Anthony L. Fernández, Grace Serrano, Al Coronel, Maria Kahlo, Cindy Vela, Mauricio Mendoza and Gabby Pensiero.

    A desperate woman, Grace Serrano, will do whatever it takes to save her daughter, including killing those who separate them. This original, artistic, and character-driven film has “mucho corazón.”

    21. “Mamitas,” USA, (2011). Directed by Nicholas Ozaki.

   This true-to-life, coming-of-age, high school drama – set in Los Angeles – where two unique characters, the popular Jordin (E.J. Bonilla) and nerdy Felipa (Veronica Dias-Carranza) fall for each other. While the romance unfolds, other elements are essential to the story: friendship, school dropouts, parenthood and, above all, family values.   

    Pedro Armendariz Jr., Joaquín de Almeida, Jennifer Esposito, and Jesse Garcia complement the cast of this little jewel of Latin Cinema.

    22. “How the Garcia Sisters Spent their Summer,” USA, (2005). Directed by Georgina Riedel (“Ana Maria in Novela Land”).
      
    A timeless film that invites its audience to their picturesque town in the middle of nowhere, Arizona and to the heart of their flamboyant Latin family.

    The Garcia family is representing three generations of Mexican-American women on an emotional, social, and sexual awakening. The performances of America Ferrera, Elizabeth Peña, and Lucy Gallardo are surprisingly good.

    The story combines humor and magical realism, taking us to a place where we can spend a summer “bien suave” with the Garcia girls.

Related Note:
http://www.festivalinla.com/2018/07/latinas-tackle-latinix-issue-in.html
Latinas Tackle the "Latinix Issue" in Hollywood 
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4 comments:

  1. Excelent. Congratulations!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would love to see in this amazing list of great films, the indie feature Mosquita y Mari directed by Aurora Guerrero

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree, Mosquita y Mari is such a great film.

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