5 MUST-SEE LATIN AMERICAN FILMS
So you have finished your spanish class and you want to practice your listening skills, well, a good option is to watch some latin american films. Below we have provided some options available to you.
1. The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina 2009)
If you are here in Buenos Aires, this is a must see. Winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, The Secret in Their Eyes, takes place in two time periods, the present (1999) and the past (1974), during one of the most turbulent times in Argentine history.
The story surrounds a retired judiciary employee and a judge, who worked on a murder case 25 years previously. The film looks both at the mystery surrounding the murder, the era in which it happened and the former love between the two main protagonists.
The film stars Ricardo Darin, probably the most famous actor in Argentina, and is directed by Juan José Campanella, a double Oscar nominated Argentine director.
The film is beautifully shot and Campanella builds suspense expertly. It will not only help your Spanish but also give you an insight into the circumstances that preceeded the military coup in Argentina.
2. The Motorcycle Diaries (Argentina, 2004)
Everyone has heard about Che Guevara, the revolutionary who fought for leftist movements all over the world. But what drove this middle class doctor from the suburbs to become a Marxist In 1952, Ernesto Guevara left home for a trip of a lifetime with his friend Alberto Granada. Their aim was to undergo a motorcycle trip throughout Latin America, that would finish up in However along the way, a young Ernesto Guevara experiences the poverty and exploitation that dogged South America during the 50’s (and later). To an extent it is a coming of age film, at this point “Che” doesn’t exist, no arms are raised and no guns fired, but the Ernesto at the end is not Gael Bernal Garcia and Rodrigo de la Serna play the travellers perfectly and the film does not solely show their political views but also allows for the daily annoyances that creep up in any big journey (such as the motorbike breaking down and the pair being short of money). However the star of the show is the cinematography from Eric Gautier. The social injustice is shown in stark contrast to the natural beauty that South America has to offer. It’s hard to watch this film without getting excited about your next journey.
Another film starring Gael Bernal Garcia, No! looks at the 1989 referendum in Chile, which was to decide whether Pinochet should stay in power or the country should be opened up for democratic elections for the first time in 17 years. To give the film an authentic 80’s feel, it is shot through a low resolution camera, which might remind you of old home videos. That might sound a bit annoying but you will find it interesting Although the history of the Pinochet government is dark and the issues surrounding the referendum were very sad, the film is reasonably upbeat. Garcia plays Rene Saavedra, an advertising agent, who is commissioned to produce adverts in favour of restoring democracy (and removing Pinochet’s absolute power). The advertising sub committee thinks the advert should draw on the torture and death that Pinochet has caused. However Saavedra disagrees and instead goes about producing an upbeat campaign that focuses on the opportunities a new Chile would have. The film successfully ties together humour, cinematography and suspense and at the end you will be wanting to find out more about Chile’s recent history. Oh that and you will be humming the song “Chile la alegria ya viene…..”
4. The Milk of Sorrow (Perú, 2009)
The Milk of Sorrow is a beautiful yet haunting Peruvian film that will stick with you for a while. Produced by Claudia Llosa (niece of Mario Vargas Llosa), it holds no punches and looks at the Peruvian military’s strategy of dealing with the Shining Path uprising. Milk of Sorrow is considered a disease in Peru, that children of rape victims suffer. The trauma experienced is said to pass from mother to child via breast milk, and so the suffering continues to be exhibited in the next generation. The main protagonist in the film, Fausta, is suffering from the “disease” and has to deal with the sudden death of her mother. Confused and scared, Fausta takes drastic steps to avoid ending Wonderfully writing and acted, Milk of Sorrow was nominated for an academy award for Best Foreign in 2009, only to lose out to The Secret in Their Eyes. The film will again leave you wanting to find out more about Peru’s recent past and give you an insight into the scars it still displays
5. Pan’s Labryrinth (Mexico, 2006)
This Spanish/Mexican film is a dark fantasy, set during the Spanish civil. Ofeila is the step daughter of Vidal, an aggressive military leader and Franco supporter. Ofeila is also able to see fairys who offer her eternal life in return for completing 3 tasks. The story twists back a forth between Ofiela’s fantasy life and the grim reality of living during the Spanish Civil War. The story is perhaps best summarised by Rotten Tomates who state: “Pan’s Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable”. Being a fantasy, many questions are left unanswered, with writer Guilermo del Toro claiming it took him 20 years to finish the story. In the end you will probably be left discussing with your friends the true meaning behind the film. One thing that won’t be debated is the beauty that the film displays, something which lead it to being nominated for an Academy Award.
Read our next list of Latin American Films