Well folks, it’s September again, which means a whole year has passed since we last celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. A year that brought us cultural milestones like Jane the Virgin, Chile campeón, and Donald Trump – demonstrative evidence that in life you win some, and you lose some. So while we’ll let white America take Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to reflect on the profound impact Latinos have had on American culture, from Jordi Farragut up through Sonia Sotomayor, it’s also a good opportunity for us to celebrate the richness and diversity of our own experience.

How, you might ask? Naturally there are at least a thousand ways we can do just that, but here we decided to narrow that list down to 20: that is, 20 Latino films from PBS that you can stream for free online. From Latino Public Broadcasting to Independent Lens and P.O.V., we already know PBS has shown a deep commitment to Latino stories over the years, which has resulted in a veritable treasure trove of world-class documentaries. But you may not have known that the folks at PBS have been kind enough to make a large part of this audiovisual fortune available for free online including their 4-hour epic doc on Latin music.

From undocumented college hopefuls, to recovering drug addicts giving high school a second shot, teen moms struggling with tough decisions, and families torn apart by deportation, these are stories that get to the heart of our struggles, hopes, and achievements. And now’s as good a time as any to heat up the popcorn, fry up some plátanos, and remember that through the good and bad, it’s great to be Latino.

1

Reportero

Director Bernardo Ruiz
Production Year 2012

Stream Reportero here.

Synopsis

Reportero follows Sergio Haro, a veteran photojournalist for Zeta, a Tijuana-based weekly newspaper. Even in the face of constant death threats, Zeta’s reporters refuse to censor themselves and routinely publish the names and photos of narco traffickers and corrupt politicians. At the heart of film is Haro’s daily life as a journalist. He sometimes questions himself — the danger, the threats to his life — is journalism really worth dying for? His devotion to his craft is unshakeable. This chilling documentary succeeds at painting a powerful portrait of a man committed to social justice and exposing the truth, no matter the cost.

Vanessa Erazo

Film Details

Director Bernardo Ruiz
Country Mexico United States
Genre Documentary
Writer Bernardo Ruiz
Producer Bernardo Ruiz Patricia Benabe
Production Year 2012
Running Time 55 minutes
2

Ruben Salazar: Man In the Middle

Production Year 2014

Stream Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle here.

Synopsis

This documentary examines the life and death of pioneering Mexican-American journalist Ruben Salazar. At the heart of the story is his transformation from a mainstream, establishment Los Angeles Times reporter to a supporter and primary chronicler of the radical Chicano movement of the late 1960s. Killed by a law enforcement officer in 1970, Salazar became a martyr to the Latino community.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details

Director Phillip Rodriguez
Country United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Jennifer Craig Kobzik Phillip Rodriguez
Production Year 2014
Running Time 53 minutes
3

Irma

Production Year 2010

Stream Irma here.

Synopsis

POV presents a portrait of Irma Gonzalez, the former world champion of women’s professional wrestling. Filmed in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl — a notorious district of Mexico City — Irma contradicts everything we have come to expect from stories reported from Mexico. Featuring music written and performed by Ms. Gonzalez, her story surges with love and deceit, masculine strength, feminine charms, and humor.


Film Details

Director Charles Fairbanks
Country Mexico United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Producer Charles Fairbanks
Production Year 2010
Running Time 12 minutes
4

El reloj

Director Yolanda Cruz
Production Year 2013

Stream El reloj here.

Synopsis

Like every Sunday morning, a Zapotec grandfather goes to the city of Oaxaca to visit his granddaughter for the day. Their ritual consists of attending mass and window shopping throughout the city. On this particular Sunday, their routine is disrupted when they pass by a stand selling watches.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details
The Watch
Director Yolanda Cruz
Country Mexico United States
Genre Short Film Drama
Writer Yolanda Cruz
Production Year 2013
Running Time 6 minutes
5

El doctor

Production Year 2013

Stream El doctor here.

Synopsis

In an Arizona Home Depot parking lot, a married couple — Andrew and Jen — hires undocumented day laborer Carlos and his buddy to repair their deck. As Carlos washes up in the family’s bathroom, 7-year-old Jonah interrupts him. A tragedy of errors puts Carlos’ and Andrew’s lives at risk, leaving everyone caught between their individual consciences and the law.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details
The Doctor
Director Heather de Michele
Country United States
Genre Short Film Drama
Writer Jude Roth
Producer Jude Roth
Production Year 2013
Running Time 11 minutes
6

You're Dead to Me

Director Wu Tsang
Production Year 2013

Stream You’re Dead to Me here.

Synopsis

In suburban Inglewood, California, Andrea — a grieving Chicana mother — confronts an unwanted family member before her Día de Muertos celebration. By night’s end, death offers her a choice that she couldn’t make in life.


Film Details

Director Wu Tsang
Country United States
Genre Drama
Writer Adelina Anthony
Producer Melissa Haizlip
Production Year 2013
Running Time 13 minutes
7

Border Bedazzlers

Director Grace Jackson
Production Year 2014

Stream Border Bedazzlers here.

Synopsis

Hoping to heal the divide between Mexico and the United States, an inspired group of artists turn the border wall into a giant canvas.

Remezcla Estaff

Film Details

Director Grace Jackson
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Production Year 2014
Running Time 4 minutes
8

Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Rio Grande

Production Year 2014

Stream Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Río Grande here.

Synopsis

An animated history lesson looking at northern Mexico during the colonial era, this is a garish and bloody account of repression and resistance under Spanish rule. The enslavement, exploitation, and massacre of indigenous peoples resulted in a series of uprisings against the conquistadores, whose voracious appetite for wealth and power motivated their campaign of terror against the people. The film highlights how spiritual beliefs and indigenous culture were fundamental to the struggle and continue to be relevant to modern-day Latinos.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details

Director John Jota Leaños
Country United States
Genre Animation Short Film
Production Year 2014
Running Time 19 minutes
9

Los graduados

Director Bernardo Ruiz
Production Year 2013

Stream Los graduados here.

Synopsis

This two-part special examines the many roots of the Latino dropout crisis through the eyes of six inspiring young students who are part of an ongoing effort to increase graduation rates for a growing Latino population.


Film Details
The Graduates
Director Bernardo Ruiz
Country United States
Genre Documentary
Writer Bernardo Ruiz
Producer Pamela Aguilar Katia Maguire
Production Year 2013
Running Time 110 minutes
10

Sin País

Director Theo Rigby
Production Year 2010

Stream Sin País here.

Synopsis

Nearly twenty years ago, Sam and Elida Mejia escaped Guatemala during a violent civil war and brought their one-year-old son to California. They worked hard, raised a family, and lived the American dream. Two years ago, immigration agents stormed the Mejias’ house and they have been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since. Sin País begins two weeks before Sam and Elida are deported and the family is ripped apart. With intimate access and striking imagery, this short film explores the complexities of the Mejias’ new reality of a separated family – parents without their children, and children without their parents.


Film Details
Without Country
Director Theo Rigby
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Production Year 2010
Running Time 20 minutes
11

Baby Mama High

Director Heather Ross
Production Year 2012

Stream Baby Mama High here.

Synopsis

It’s the last few weeks of high school for Yessenia, a soft-spoken senior with two small daughters and a boyfriend who’d rather she stay at home than go to school. Yessenia is forced to choose: stand up for herself and her daughters, or give in to expectation.


Film Details

Director Heather Ross
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Writer Heather Ross
Producer Heather Ross
Production Year 2012
Running Time 21 minutes
12

Skipping Up

Director Jim Mendiola
Production Year 2013

Stream Skipping Up here.

Synopsis

Skipping Up follows a group of eighth graders in San Antonio as they finish their year in the Middle School Partners Program, a successful dropout-prevention project that has generated national interest as a model for schools with significant Latino populations.


Film Details

Director Jim Mendiola
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Producer Faith Radle
Production Year 2013
Running Time 16 minutes
13

I Really Want to Make It

Production Year 2013

Stream I Really Want to Make It here.

Synopsis

Sharon Montano of Oakland decides to go back to school at age 20 after several years of substance abuse and other struggles. When she discovers Civicorps Academy, she finally gets another shot at a high school diploma — and a future.


Film Details

Director Raymond Telles
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Producer Angela Reginato
Production Year 2013
Running Time 16 minutes
14

Immigrant High

Production Year 2048

Stream Immigrant High here.

Synopsis

Immigrant teens face discrimination, language barriers, unfamiliar cultural traditions — all while dealing with the changes all teens struggle with. Many give up on school. Immigrant High takes us into the halls of Pan American International High School in Queens, New York, a school that aims to give its Latino students a place to belong and excel.


Film Details

Director Xochitl Dorsey
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Production Year 2048
Running Time 18 minutes
15

Can't Hold Me Back

Production Year 2011

Stream Can’t Hold Me Back here.

Synopsis

Can’t Hold Me Back follows Detroit teen Fernando Parraz as he overcomes a mountain of roadblocks to become the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. He finds support from an unlikely figure: his father, a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes.


Film Details

Director Madeleine Bair Betty Bastidas
Country United States
Genre Short Film Documentary
Writer Madeleine Bair
Producer Betty Bastidas Madeleine Bair
Production Year 2011
Running Time 17 minutes
16

New American Girls

Production Year 2014

Stream New American Girls here.

Synopsis

What is it like to grow up in a country that fails to recognize your status or citizenship, while classing you as “illegal,” in spite of your integration at all levels of culture and society? In this documentary series, three teenage girls (of Mexican, Peruvian, and Indian descent) brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age describe their experiences as undocumented residents who feel American. Having excelled at school, the girls are subsequently unable to go to college, get jobs, or register in a system that impedes their sense of identity and damages their prospects. The situation has led to a national campaign for reform and state recognition of young people’s rights.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details

Director Mitchell Teplitsky Betty Bastidas
Country United States
Genre Documentary Series Documentary
Production Year 2014
17

Latino Americans

Production Year 2013

Stream The Latino Americans here.

Synopsis

Latino Americans is a landmark six-hour documentary featuring interviews with nearly 100 Latinos and more than 500 years of history. It was the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details
18

Black in Latin America

Production Year 2011

Stream Black in Latin America here.

Synopsis

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a Harvard professor, an expert in African and African-American history, and the host of Black in Latin America. Gates has taken his knowledge of African history and racial dynamics in the U.S. and focused his attention on the rest of the Americas in this four-part PBS documentary series. He uncovers the hidden history that most Americans, African-Americans, and even Latinos don’t know about. In the series, Gates teaches us that that more than 11 million africanos were taken to Latin America as slaves. That is 25 times the number sent to the United States. He visits Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. He discovers the similarities in religion, food, and music – tracing their common origin to Africa.

Vanessa Erazo

Film Details

Director Ricardo Pollack Ilana Trachtman
Country United States
Genre Documentary Series Documentary
Writer Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Producer Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Production Year 2011
Running Time 222 minutes
19

Latin Music USA

Director Daniel McCabe
Production Year 2009

Stream Latin Music USA here.

Synopsis

Thanks to PBS, we get the history of Latin music in the United States condensed into an easy-to-watch four hours. The documentary shows us the birth of boogaloo, jazz’s influence on Santana and rock ‘n’ roll, the rise and fall of Fania Records’ salsa revolution, the wave of Chicano music starting in the 60s, and artists like Selena, Linda Ronstadt, Ricky Martin, Ritchie Valens, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, and so much more. Even for those who grew up listening this music in their homes from an early age, Latin Music USA shows us just how big an influence our heritage has had on the history of American music.

Stefa Alarcon

Film Details

Director Daniel McCabe
Country United States
Genre Documentary Series Documentary
Production Year 2009
Running Time 240 minutes
20

America by the Numbers

Production Year 2014

Stream America by the Numbers here.

Synopsis

Bringing together her more than 25 years of experience as a journalist for networks like CNN, PBS, and CBS, María Hinojosa is hosting a weekly news program. In her own words, the new show America by the Numbers covers, “The most phenomenally deep demographic change that our country has ever experienced.” What kind of demographic change? If you’ve been watching mainstream media, then maybe you haven’t heard the news. “We are going to be a majority non-white country in a matter of decades,” Hinojosa explains. This is exactly why she created her company, Futuro Media Group, in the first place: to tell stories that the big networks are ignoring – stories that can no longer be ignored.

Vanessa Erazo

Film Details