Scores of characters in spandex and capes fought to capture this summer’s box office, but their efforts were unsuccessful, as 2016 has become a dismal symbol of studio productions gone wrong. Granted, some of these turkeys did line executives’ pockets, but the critical response has been savage. The antidote is, and has always been, independent and international cinema – and this year Latin American and US Latino offerings are among the best of the crop.

During the first six months of 2016, a few dozen of these titles were theatrically released in the United States to great acclaim. Some had already won prizes at highly regarded international festivals and were even nominated for an Academy Award or a Golden Globe before hitting US screens. With one-week engagements only in major cities, it’s no surprise that some might have escaped the radars of even the most avid cinephile. Luckily, we have compiled a list of 15 films with Latin American or US Latino content (regardless of the filmmaker’s ethnicity) that you may have missed when they hit theaters earlier this year. There is an Irish production set in Cuba, a border tale directed by a gringo, and a film about a Russian in Mexico from a British lad.

Most of these films are now available to watch at home on a variety of streaming platforms and, for those that still appreciate tangible media, on DVD and Blu-ray. Take a look at our picks and you’ll change your mind about how terrible 2016 has been at the movies. It’s actually been great; you just weren’t looking in the right place.

1

600 millas

Production Year 2015

Available on DVD and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

The U.S.-Mexico border has provided the setting (and conflict) for many a drama, but in Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles, it’s just one of many lines that are crossed. Arnulfo (Kristyan Ferrer) is a young Mexican gunrunner, which lands him on ATF Agent Hank Harris’ (Tim Roth) radar. But instead of getting his man, Hank is taken hostage by Arnulfo, who wants to hand him over to his cartel bosses to curry favor. The two men get chummy on the trip south, which makes Arnulfo’s subsequent actions all the more tragic. 600 Miles won the Best First Feature award at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Danette Chavez

Film Details
600 Miles
Director Gabriel Ripstein
Country Mexico United States
Genre Thriller Drama
Writer Issa López Gabriel Ripstein
Producer Andrea Gamboa Gabriel Ripstein Michel Franco
Production Year 2015
Running Time 85 minutes
2

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

Country Netherlands
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD and to stream on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

Sergei Eisenstein was a Soviet filmmaker who revolutionized silent (and propaganda) films with 1925’s Battleship Potemkin, and whose brief stay in Mexico is the inspiration for Peter Greenaway’s biopic. It’s a sexy and hilarious tribute to the legendary director, who fell in love with Mexico — and a few handsome Mexicans in particular — while attempting to film a movie. Greenaway mixes palettes, taking Eisenstein from quiet, black-and-white moments to color-soaked epiphanies. Eisenstein’s boundless lust ultimately proved to be his movie’s undoing, but here he (mostly) just has a great time. Eisenstein in Guanajuato screened in the main competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Danette Chavez

Film Details

Director Peter Greenaway
Country Netherlands
Genre Biography Romance
Writer Peter Greenaway
Producer Bruno Felix San Fu Maltha Cristina Velasco
Production Year 2015
Running Time 105 minutes
3

El club

Director Pablo Larrain
Country Chile
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD/Blu-ray and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

Director Pablo Larraín’s previous films examined life in Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship, and here he takes aim at another oppressive force: the Catholic Church. The Club has four members, all priests, who live together in a Church-sponsored home to “purge” themselves of their sins, which include child molestation and kidnapping. With a retired nun to look after them, the men seem willing to live out their days in contrite seclusion. But their penitence is interrupted with the arrival of a crisis counselor, Father Garcia. The Club took home the Jury Grand Prix at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, and was selected to represent Chile for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars, but did not receive a nomination.

Danette Chavez

Film Details
The Club
Director Pablo Larrain
Country Chile
Genre Drama
Writer Pablo Larraín Daniel Villalobos Guillermo Calderón
Producer Pablo Larraín Juan de Dios Larraín
Production Year 2015
Running Time 98 minutes
4

El abrazo de la serpiente

Director Ciro Guerra
Country Colombia
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD/Blu-ray and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

There’s no reason to think things will end well for the natives of the pristine Amazon in this Colombian drama from Ciro Guerra (La Sombra del Caminante). The movie comprises two stories of two journeys along one river, in search of a healing plant, and centers on an age-old theme: nothing gold can stay. Colonialism finds its way into even the most remote places on this planet, and leaves catastrophe in its wake. The film was even shot in black and white, leaving no room for shades of gray, moral or otherwise. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.

Danette Chavez

Film Details
Embrace of the Serpent
Director Ciro Guerra
Country Colombia
Genre Adventure Drama
Writer Ciro Guerra
Producer Cristina Gallego Raúl Bravo Marcelo Cespedes
Production Year 2015
Running Time 125 minutes
5

El clan

Director Pablo Trapero
Country Spain, Argentina
Production Year 2015

Available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

Throughout the 1980s, the so-called Puccio Clan, a family of twisted, upper crust porteños, adopted the tactics of Argentina’s Dirty War and made a well-organized family business out of kidnapping and extortion, only to mercilessly finish off their victims after completing the transaction. The mastermind behind this depraved family activity was an unassuming public accountant and small businessman named Arquímedes Puccio, along with his son, a professional rugby player named Alejandro. Their victims? Family friends and soccer acquaintances. Yeesh. The film is directed by Pablo Trapero, one of Argentina’s most internationally lauded directors, and features box office sensation and beloved comedian Guillermo Francella in the role of Arquímedes. It’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller, with plenty of dimly lit spaces, stacks of money, guns, menacing glares, and slamming trunks.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details

Director Pablo Trapero
Country Spain Argentina
Genre Biography Crime Drama
Writer Pablo Trapero
Producer Matías Mosteirín Hugo Sigman Pedro Almodóvar Esther García Agustín Almodóvar
Production Year 2015
Running Time 110 minutes
6

We Like It Like That

Production Year 2014

Available on DVD and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

Latin boogaloo music in 1960s New York City takes center stage in this documentary from director Mathew Ramirez Warren. With musicians like Joe Bataan, Johnny Colon, and Pete Rodriguez taking the lead, Warren covers everything that was happening in the era through interviews, archival footage, and images of live performances. Journey through this musical revolution and learn about the performers whose rhythms got everyone on the dance floor and defined a new generation of music on the East Coast.

Kiko Martinez

Film Details

Director Mathew Ramirez Warren
Country United States
Genre Documentary
Writer Mathew Ramirez Warren
Producer Elena Martínez Mathew Ramirez Warren
Production Year 2014
Running Time 82 minutes
7

Boi neon

Production Year 2015

Available on DVD/Blu-ray and to stream on Netflix, iTunes, and Google Play.

Synopsis

Neon Bull follows Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), a handsome cowboy who dreams of becoming a fashion designer. But don’t let that simple description fool you. Gabriel Mascaro’s film, a road trip film set in the northeast Brazilian countryside, is an explosion of gender, class, and sexuality, flamboyantly portraying its characters with quiet compassion and culminating with one of the most indelible sex scenes put on screen in recent memory.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Neon Bull
Director Gabriel Mascaro
Country Netherlands Uruguay Brazil
Genre Drama
Writer Gabriel Mascaro
Producer Marleen Slot Sandino Saravia Vinay Rachel Ellis
Production Year 2015
Running Time 101 minutes
8

Havana Motor Club

Production Year 2015
Havana Motor Club Press 1
Havana Motor Club Press 1
Havana Motor Club Press 2
Havana Motor Club Press 2

Available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

There’s a long history of being fast and furious in Latin America — the streets of Havana once regularly ripped up with late-night drag races. Although motorsports were outlawed in Cuba following the revolution, and no new cars have made it into the country since, there are modern-day attempts to revive the scene with new competitions. Brooklynite Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt captures the history of the titular club and its members as they both establish and preserve this subculture.

Danette Chavez

Film Details

Director Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Country United States
Genre Documentary Drama
Writer Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Producer Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Production Year 2015
Running Time 84 minutes
9

Hostile Border

Director Michael Dwyer
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

American filmmaker Michael Dwyer’s debut feature follows the story of Claudia, a young woman deported to Mexico after being convicted of credit card fraud in the United States. Sent to live on her estranged father’s ranch, Claudia has difficulty adapting to the way of life in a country she hardly knows. After falling in with a drug trafficker who promises to smuggle her back into the United States, Claudia finds herself caught up in a dangerous and complex web of betrayal and deception that will pit her own selfish needs against those of her family.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details
Pocha: Manifest Destiny
Director Michael Dwyer
Country United States
Genre Western Thriller
Writer Kaitlin McLaughlin
Producer Alicia Dwyer Kathleen Dwyer
Production Year 2015
Running Time 86 minutes
10

Los Sures

Production Year 1984

Los Sures is still touring cinemas across the US and is also available to stream for a limited time on Mubi.

Synopsis

Few films document New York history from a Latino perspective as honestly and intimately as Diego Echeverria’s Los Sures did back in 1984. By following local residents in their daily struggles for basic necessities, Echeverria delivers an authentic portrait of what it was like to be Puerto Rican in Williamsburg, Brooklyn prior to gentrification.

Carlos Aguilar

Film Details

Director Diego Echeverria
Country United States
Producer Diego Echeverria
Production Year 1984
Running Time 57 minutes
11

Viva

Country Ireland
Production Year 2015

Available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

Jesus has spent most of his young adult life styling wigs at a drag club in Havana, longing for a purpose other than the pennies he scrapes together in the shadows of his surroundings. When Jesus is offered the chance to perform amongst the other queens, the cruel winds of fate bring his estranged, abusive father back into his life after 15 years. What unfolds is a bittersweet story of pain, regret, and reconciliation. As the two men’s lives violently collide, they are forced to grapple with their conflicting views.


Film Details

Director Paddy Breathnach
Country Ireland
Genre Drama
Writer Mark O'Halloran
Production Year 2015
Running Time 100 minutes
12

Un monstruo de mil cabezas

Director Rodrigo Plá
Country Mexico
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

True to its tagline — “A wounded animal doesn’t cry, it bites” — Rodrigo Plá’s film is a sleek thriller that shows the lengths to which a wife will go to get her husband fair treatment within a health care system that favors only profit gains. Armed with a gun, Sonia (Jana Raluy) takes matters into her own hands, digging herself into an ever-growing dark hole from which she soon realizes, she cannot escape.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
A Monster with a Thousand Heads
Director Rodrigo Plá
Country Mexico
Genre Thriller Drama
Writer Laura Santullo
Producer Rodrigo Plá Sandino Saravia Vinay
Production Year 2015
Running Time 74 minutes
13

Pelé: Birth of a Legend

Production Year 2016
PELE
Young Pelé (Leonardo Lima Carvalho) in Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s PELÉ BIRTH OF A LEGEND. Courtesy of Ique Esteves
PELE
Young Pelé (Leonardo Lima Carvalho) in Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s PELÉ BIRTH OF A LEGEND. Courtesy of Ique Esteves
PELE
Pelé (Kevin de Paula) in Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s PELÉ: BIRTH OF A LEGEND. Courtesy of Ique Esteves.

Available on DVD and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

From the slums of Brazil to center stage at the world’s biggest sporting event, Pelé’s rise to become the youngest-ever World Cup winner, at the age of 17, was nothing short of a miracle. Full of laughs, life lessons, and heart, this inspiring biopic is perfect for introducing a new generation to the greatest soccer player of all time.


Film Details

Director Michael Zimbalist Jeff Zimbalist
Genre Biopic
Writer Jeff Zimbalist Michael Zimbalist
Producer Ivan Orlic Kim Roth Isabelle Tanugi Colin Wilson Brian Grazer
Production Year 2016
Running Time 107 minutes
14

Desde allá

Director Lorenzo Vigas
Country Venezuela
Production Year 2015

Available on DVD and to stream on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Synopsis

The winner of the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, Vigas’ Caracas-set film follows the unlikely relationship between Armando, an older man and Elder, a malandro from the streets. One lured by youth, the other by money, the two men form a tender if fragile couple that will force them both to grapple with the world they live from day to day.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
From Afar
Director Lorenzo Vigas
Country Venezuela
Genre Drama
Writer Lorenzo Vigas Guillermo Arriaga
Producer Guillermo Arriaga Rodolfo Cova Lorenzo Vigas Michel Franco
Production Year 2015
Running Time 93 minutes
15

Puerto Ricans in Paris

Director Ian Edelman
Production Year 2014

Available on DVD/Blu-ray and to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play

Synopsis

Puerto Rican brothers–in-law Eddie and Luis just happen to be NYC’s two best counterfeit detectives. When the latest, must-have “It Bag” from celebrated Parisian fashion designer Colette’s new collection has been stolen, they head to Paris in hopes of cracking the case and collecting a handsome fee. With clashing sleuthing styles and personality traits, the comedic duo infuses a bit of color into the City of Lights. This hilarious new caper features the incomparable Luis Guzman and co-star Edgar Garcia alongside Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson.


Film Details

Director Ian Edelman
Country United States
Genre Comedy
Writer Neel Shah Ian Edelman
Producer Joseph Zolfo
Production Year 2014
Running Time 60 minutes