Monday, 22 September 2014

5 Movies to Watch for Hispanic Heritage Month

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, which is celebrated September 15th-October 15th, I wanted to write about one of the lesser known -- and perhaps most underrated -- aspects of hispanic culture: its wonderful films and filmmakers.

Below you will find a list of my top 5 recommendations for anyone who is interested in delving into the world of Hispanic film:

1) Hable con Ella

A film by Pedro Almodovar: the eccentric, wonderful, Spanish writer and director. If you've never experienced Almodovar, this is a good film to start with. 

This film follows Benigno Martin and Marco Zuluaga, two men who start off as strangers but become close friends through their strife and tragedy. Benigno is a bubbly character, Marco is a brooding one. They are both in love with women who are stuck in a coma. 

I love this movie because it's unconventional, because it challenges the audience's moral compass and it makes you see the World through the eyes of people whose love is and will remain unrequited. Like most of Almodovar's films, this one left me with and uncomfortable feeling of not wanting to know more but not having had enough. 

2) La Nana 

This film made my list because it gives a glimpse into a world that is so familiar for those of us who grew up with a "nana" like Raquel, and yet so foreign at the same time. The complexity of Raquel's character is usually reserved for her employers, but this film breaks away from the tendency of making maid characters either extremely likable or extremely unnoticeable. 

This is a simple film: few sets, few characters, no impressive shots or special effects. The story is purely driven by Raquel's search for a way to belong, to truly feel comfortable in her own skin, and to finally feel like part of the family. 

The acting by supporting characters isn't spectacular, but Catalina Saavedra and Mariana Loyola as Raquel and Lucy (the maids) more than make up for it. 

3) Matando Cabos 


This movie mad my list because it was the first contemporary Mexican film I ever watched and because it is HI-LARIOUS! This film made me want to leave my Hollywood-movie comfort zone and delve into the world of the more raunchy, contemporary Mexican cinema, and it was worth it. 

Matando Cabos is situational comedy done right. Jaque, the main character, finds himself in a dangerous situation after Mr. Cabos - a most dreaded businessman - catches Jaque in a compromising situation with Cabos' daughter. From then on, things keep getting worse and worse for Jacque and his friend, Mudo; accidental kidnapping, near homicide, run-ins with actual kidnappers and angry, cross-eyed bus drivers, confrontations with a neighbor who owns an obnoxiously loud bird, working with an ex Lucha Libre professional who enjoys the occasional hallucinogen....this and more within the span of one night. THAT is Matando Cabos, directed by Alejandro Lozano. 

4) Valentin 

Valentin is an 8 year old Argentinian boy who is in many ways more of a grown up that the adults around him. He dreams of becoming an astronaut, but most of all, he dreams of having a mom and dad who will stick around.

This movie touches on the topic of family as a group of people who love each other and stay together through thick and thin, and it challenges the notion of family as a group of people who happen to share genetic material. 

Directed by Alejandro Agresti, Valentin is a semi-autobiographical film along the lines of Cinema Paradiso. It's a feel-good movie that will make you shed a reluctant tear or two...or three or four. It's also a movie you will want to watch over and over again, just to catch all the wonderful gems of dialogue that transpire between the perfectly flawed characters. 

5) Despu├ęs de Lucia  

Out of this list, Despues de Lucia is by far my favorite. It is also the only film that has drawn me into this world so deeply that is took me hours to shake the disappointment, rage and sadness that it left with me. For days after watching this movie, I had to remind myself that Alejandra and her father weren't real, that I didn't personally know them, and that I hadn't been standing helplessly by their side as their lives took an irreparable turn. 

This film could have been written and directed by Steve McQueen. It is riddled with long pauses, slow movement, and lengthy shots that force the audience to truly see what is happening on screen. Every shot, every piece or dialogue serves to yank the audience out of their comfort zone and forces them to see, feel, and live what the characters are going though. 

This film is about what happens when people are pushed past their breaking point and it is not pretty or fair. It just is. 

Have you ever watched any of these movies? How would you rate them? Are there any movies you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below or tweet us at @swagger_media.

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