Staff favorites: Latinx-led films and shows
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, Daily Trojan staff members and editors have selected their favorite Latinx-led films and TV shows. From Academy-nominated dramas to laugh-out-loud comedies, our staff has got you covered with picks from one of Hollywood’s least represented ethnic groups.
“Real Women Have Curves”
“Real Women Have Curves” is a coming-of-age movie starring America Ferrera as the leading role of Ana Garcia. The film is based on a play of the same name by Chicana playwright Josefina López.
The film feels like a love letter to Los Angeles. While Garcia travels from East L.A. to Beverly Hills to attend high school, the camera takes us through the familiar street art, buildings and scenery whilst a jazzy sultry song “Chica Dificil” by Aterciopelados plays. As an 18-year-old, Garcia has to decide between going to her dream college (Columbia University) and making her mother happy by staying home and fulfilling her purported gender role by becoming a wife and mother. Her mother teeters on being emotionally abusive to her daughter by constantly criticizing her weight and looks. Garcia, being the youngest of sisters, does not take the insults lying down.
In my personal favorite scene in the film, Garcia convinces the other women working in her family’s factory to take off their clothes in the severe summer heat. They all compare bodies and laugh. The camaraderie among the women who all admit they struggle with self-love is something that made a lasting impression on me.
Additionally, Garcia wants to be known beyond her reproductive capacities and shamelessly enjoys sex. The film is about body confidence. In Latinx households, it’s generally frowned upon to talk back to guardians, but watching Garcia stand up to her mother gave me the confidence I needed to embrace my own body despite toxic societal expectations.
The film is now streaming on HBO Max.
Sophia Ungaro, staff writer
“La Misma Luna”
In 2007, Mexican-born Patricia Riggen made her feature-directorial debut with the Spanish language film, “La Misma Luna” (Under the Same Moon). The film centers around Rosario (Kate de Castillo) and her 9-year-old son Carlitos (Adrián Alonso Barona) as they dream to build a better life in the United States.
For four years, Rosario has been undocumented and working in the U.S. while Carlitos stays with his grandmother in Mexico. When his grandmother dies, Carlitos decides to cross the Mexico-U.S. border to be with his mom. Meeting a migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) along the way, Carlitos gains someone who cares for him and helps him overcome the dangers of being undocumented in the U.S. Cutting between the paralleled journeys of Rosario and Carlitos, both are shown experiencing first-hand the hardships and sacrifices of the Mexican immigrant experience, all while remaining hopeful that they will reunite.
The film undoubtedly displays Riggen’s connection to telling stories of immigration and its realities. In what ultimately could have been a completely somber film, this movie is filled with drama, comedy and adventure. I appreciate those moments of fear, laughter and tears because they highlight that the immigrant experience, like all human experience, is multifaceted, consisting of a plethora of different emotions. Riggen humanizes the characters, allowing the audience to put a face to the immigrants that so often become statistics. An overall heartwarming film, “La Misma Luna” serves as a beautiful reminder that no matter where in the world someone you love is, you are both always under the same moon.
The film is available to stream on Amazon and STARZ through Hulu.
— Trinity Gomez, staff writer
In the critically-acclaimed film “Roma,” Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón guides viewers in a striking story of domestic life. Set against social unrest in 1970s Mexico, the movie follows the life of Cleo, a live-in housekeeper of a middle class family. Captured in digitized black and white, the otherwise mundane plot transforms into a remarkable portrait of everyday life. In true Cuarón fashion, the use of the long one-shot throughout the film, develops a stunning visual for viewers.
Readily available on the Netflix streaming platform, the film itself was nothing short of a game changer. The new found accessibility to a wide-range audience makes it so compelling. The cast itself mostly consisted of non-actors, including the standout Yalitza Aparicio. Her performance landed her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, making her the first Indigenous American woman to be considered.
The film tackles the manner in which crucial societal movements manifest themselves in the personal. “Roma” distinguishes itself by focusing on the commonalities of life. Cuarón’s film is an immersive experience that asks viewers to actively reflect on their own memories rather than nostalgia.
— Ana Cruz, staff writer
Set during the 1999 Mexican student strikes against the National Autonomous University of Mexico, “Güeros” is a coming-of-age movie that encapsulates the tumultuous, subversive nature and unbounded potential of young people.
Shot in black and white, “Güeros” chronicles a significant moment in Mexican history while following the story of Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre), his brother Federico (Tenoch Huerta) and their friend Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris). The trio embark on a roadtrip to find the musician Epigmenio Cruz (Alfonso Charpener), who, according to Tomás, once made Bob Dylan cry.
Director and screenwriter Alfonso Ruizpalacios does not shy away from social criticism in “Güeros,” as depicted by his decision to touch on themes such as misogyny and colorism that are rampant in the Latinx community. Ruizpalacios constantly brings up the question of power dynamics throughout the movie, as shown by the slurs directed at people with darker skin, the mistreatment and intentional erasure of women’s voices and the suppression of students’ rights.
“Güeros” also discusses classism throughout the movie by addressing the privileged backgrounds of certain characters and juxtaposing the lack of resources of low-income communities with the grandeur and hedonism of the elite.
In one of the movie’s most profound scenes, a banner hangs off one of the walls that leaves the viewer with a central message — “Ser joven y no ser revolucionario es una contradicción” — to be young and not a revolutionary is a contradiction.
“Güeros” is available to stream with a Sling premium subscription or to rent from Amazon Video and iTunes.
— Angie Orellana Hernandez, diversity & inclusion director
“Como caído del cielo”
“Como caído del cielo” is nostalgia set to a modern tempo. Legendary Mexican actor and singer Pedro Infante (Omar Chaparro) returns to life on Earth after decades in purgatory. God has given him one more shot to right his wrongs as a womanizer and make his way to heaven by fixing the life of Pedro Guadalupe Ramos (also played by Chaparro), an Infante imitator.
Director and USC alumnus José Pepe Bojóroquez weaves themes of modernity, feminism and machismo into this light-hearted comedy-drama-musical. Though the movie truly only touches the surface of these topics, it pays respect to such a well-known legend in a way that celebrates the good he brought to the world while also acknowledging his imperfect past. The movie contradicts Infante’s line from his 1957 film “Pablo y Carolina,” “yo sigo siendo soltero, la casada es mi mujer,” “I continue to stay single, the married one is my wife,” which is referenced in the film. Infante’s journey demonstrates the power women hold and the importance of acknowledging one another’s humanity — lessons he learns from Guadalupe’s wife (Ana Claudia Talancón) and his own granddaughter (Yare Santana).
Throughout this 2019 Netflix film, Chaparro brings Infante alive through classic songs and movie references. “Como caído del cielo” touches the hearts of those who grew up listening and watching the legend. It reminds me of days spent watching Infante’s movies with my grandpa, who’s loved him since his youth. It reminds my mom of growing up with my grandpa, listening to his rancheras blast throughout the house.
“Como caído del cielo” is currently streaming on Netflix.
— Kate Sequeira, features editor
“My Family” is a 1995 film that centers around the Sanchez family, a Mexican American family living in East Los Angeles. Narrated by the eldest son Paco (Edward James Olmos), the film begins with Jose (Jacob Vargas) starting a family with his wife Maria (Jennifer Lopez) in East L.A. in the early 1930s after emigrating from Mexico. The film depicts the family over the course of the next several decades as they deal with social and political turmoil, such as racial tensions, gang fights and mass deportations. During all of this, the family is tested as the children grow up and deal with all the trials and tribulations life brings.
“My Family” is a beautiful film that utilizes great acting, wonderful cinematography and a memorable soundtrack to capture what makes the idea of family, especially Latinx families, so compelling. The film does a great job exploring the difference in ideologies between Latinx immigrants and their more Americanized children. It is a great representation of the struggles so many Latinx immigrants and first-generation Latinx Americans go through.
Despite these struggles, the movie emphasizes the importance of “la familia” and how those people can help a person get through anything. Dealing with themes of loss, fatherhood and redemption, “My Family” hits the entire emotional spectrum. It is one of those few movies that can make you laugh in one scene and cry in the next.
“My Family” is available to watch on YouTube.
— Carlos Gomez, staff writer
Set in 1980s New York City, “Pose” follows Blanca Rodriguez (MJ Rodriguez), a Puerto Rican transgender woman, who develops a “house,” a home with a chosen family that financially supports and uplifts LGBTQ+ youth who have been shut out by their biological families. Rodriguez becomes a house mother to a talented group of lost youth, including Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel). Rodriguez’s protections come with a caveat: Each of the members of the house must work and compete in balls, competitive fashion and lip syncing shows that laid the groundwork for the modern drag shows that we know today. Yes, you read that right: Drag culture comes from Black and Latinx trans women. While doing so, each of the members of the family faces their own set of challenges, including battling HIV and AIDS and the stigma that came with it, along with racial discrimination, transphobia and the loss of loved ones. When tackling those issues, “Pose” confidently struts through these issues, offering a nuanced portrayal of trans women of color and distinguishing the toxicity of transphobia and racism within the often homogenized LGBTQ+ community. The House of Evangelista continues to push each other to grow beyond their circumstances with tough love.
The show’s opening theme features MC of the balls, Pray Tell, portrayed by Emmy-nominated actor Billy Porter, as he commands “Live. Work. Pose,” a theme that guides the series throughout. The glamour of the underground balls is contrasted with the harsh up-and-coming white, young, urban-professional culture and how it deliberately rejects anything that goes against the status quo. This juxtaposition is explored through a romance between trans sex worker Angel and Trump Tower prodigy, Stan (Evan Peters).
As a huge fan of ’80s aesthetic, music and fashion, “Pose” honors African American and Afro Latinx trans women, who built and carried that very culture without praise. “Pose” delivers a poignant message to stand tall and choose the life you want and need for yourself.
Next time you listen to Madonna’s 1990 hit, “Vogue,” take a moment to remember the Black and Latinx women who had to vogue for their soul’s survival.
As we eagerly await season three, seasons one and two of the FX show are now available to stream on Netflix.
— Astrid Kayembe, arts & entertainment editor