In case you missed it, we’re currently in Hispanic Heritage Month, a 31-day celebration with a mid-month start — September 15 — because of its corresponding date with the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries that include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The celebrated independence days of Mexico and Chile follow respectively on September 16 and 18. Separate from the name of the month, which many find problematic, we want to highlight three films that reflect the Latinx experience and are must-see titles for your watchlist, no matter what time of year you view them.
De Lo Mio
Diana Peralta’s feature debut as a writer/director is a family drama that centers on estranged siblings who come together in Santiago, Dominican Republic after their father’s death. Carolina (Darlene Demorizi) and Rita (Sasha Merci) are two Dominican American sisters raised in New York, and their half-brother Dante (Héctor Aníbal) has only ever known Santiago. When the three of them reunite to settle their late father’s estate, they find his childhood home in bad shape and face the rifts in their relationships while preparing to sell it. Demorizi and Merci are hosts of the Fuse digital series Like, Share, Dímelo with Sasha & Dee, as well as close friends in real life, which contributes to their onscreen sister chemistry. Add to that the work of Aníbal, a prolific Dominican actor, and you’ve got three powerhouse lead performances to watch. De Lo Mio is currently available on HBO Max.
Natalie Morales’ sophomore feature directorial endeavor, which she also co-starred in and co-wrote with Mark Duplass, delivers one of the best “Zoom films” to date. Morales plays Cariño, a Spanish language teacher based in Costa Rica that connects with an Oakland resident named Adam (Duplass), who is gifted her weekly virtual lessons via video calls. But when Adam suffers a tragedy, the student/teacher relationship transforms into one of deep friendship as Cariño supports him through the aftermath. The Hollywood Reporter beautifully sums up Morales’ work in the film, describing how she “pulls off the difficult trick of fostering intimacy out of a long-distance relationship framed by technology.” It’s a nuanced performance from the budding auteur that is certainly one to watch. You can currently find Language Lessons in select theaters.
Real Women Have Curves
Patricia Cardoso directed the film in which America Ferrera made her first film appearance. That fact alone would warrant Real Women Have Curves a spot on our list with getting to see the A-lister display her acting prowess before she became a household name. In the film, an 18-year-old Ferrera plays a character of the same age, Ana, an East Los Angeles-residing daughter of Mexican immigrants who struggles to balance her college ambitions with her mother’s wishes for how Ana’s life should go. In his review of the film, the late Roger Ebert described Ferrera as “a wonder,” calling her performance “natural, unforced, sweet, passionate and always real.” She delivers just one of the many strong performances that can be found in the classic 2002 feature, which is currently residing on HBO Max.
Looking to add more titles to your watchlist that reflect the Latinx experience? Many streamers currently have collections dedicated to such projects, like HBO Max’s “Latino” category and the “Hispanic Heritage Month” section on Netflix. And while it’s nice to spotlight the films and series that these collections hold during the 31 days between September 15 and October 15, we can’t help but issue one more reminder that their value remains all year round.