Hoping to muscle their way up into the global cinema conversation in ways its nearby neighbors like Mexico and Cuba have been doing for decades, filmmakers from Central America are finally seeing their efforts flourish. Established fests like the Festival Internacional de Cine Panamá and the Costa Rica International Film Festival (CRFIC) have been focusing not just on showcasing but investing in cinema from the region. This has led to an interest in projects like Ixcanulthe Guatemalan film about a young indigenous woman, which became only the country’s second ever submission to the Oscar foreign language film category.

As local filmmakers take advantage of a slew of new funding opportunities and are finally able to tell their own stories, the Central American cinematic landscape has blossomed to include all kinds of genres. If you’re on the look out for films in Spanish from Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Nicaragua to check out, we’ve compiled a handy list of 15 flicks that are available to stream right now. Whether you want a full history lesson on Guatemalan politics or prefer a dreamy black-and-white rom-com; whether you wanna Netfllix and chill or opt to support Latin American streaming services like Pantaya, these 15 films have you covered.

RELATED: 10 Central American Actors Who Are Taking Over Hollywood

1

Septiembre, un llanto en silencio

Country Guatemala
Production Year 2017
Septiembre, Un Llanto en Silencio
'Septiembre, un llanto en silencio' still courtesy of Miami Film Festival.

Available on Netflix.

Synopsis

Based on a real life story and drawing upon the director’s own brother, Kenneth Muller’s Septiembre, un llanto en silencio is a heart wrenching and heartwarming of the importance of family. After a terrorist attack in Guatemala, a baby is rendered deaf and motherless and her father is left to raise her alone.


Film Details

Director Kenneth Muller
Country Guatemala
Genre Drama
Writer Kenneth Muller
Producer Tom Davia
Production Year 2017
Running Time 69 minutes
2

Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley

Country Honduras
Production Year 2014

Available on Vimeo on Demand.

Synopsis

In 2009, the first coup d’etat in a generation in Central America overthrows the elected president of Honduras. A nation-wide movement, known simply as The Resistance, rises in opposition. Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley centers on the most daring wing of the movement, the farmers of the Aguan. Not satisfied with just marching and blocking highways, 2000 landless families take possession of the palm oil plantations of Miguel Facusse, the country’s largest landowner and a key player in the coup. The camera follows three farmers over four years as they build their new communities on occupied land, in the face of the regime’s violent response, while waiting for the elections The Resistance hopes will restore the national democratic project.


Film Details

Director Jesse Freeston
Country Honduras
Genre Documentary
Writer Diego Briceño-Orduz Jesse Freeston
Producer Jesse Freeston
Production Year 2014
Running Time 92 minutes
3

Karla's Arrival

Production Year 2010
karla_s_arrival_1_FILM
Courtesy of ITVS

Available on Kanopy

Synopsis

In Managua, Nicaragua, teenager Sujeylin Aguilar raises her newborn daughter Karla on the same streets she has been calling home for the past eight years. Based in a city park and part of a larger group of youngsters, mother and baby struggle to reach the little one’s first birthday. Beautifully told and full of hope, Karla’s Arrival offers an intense personal story about second generation street children.


Film Details

Director Koen Suidgeest
Country Belgium Nicaragua United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Koen Suidgeest
Production Year 2010
Running Time 88 minutes
4

Ixcanul

Country Guatemala
Production Year 2015

Available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes

Synopsis

Filmed almost entirely in the Kaqchikel dialect spoken in Guatemala’s coffee-growing highlands, Ixcanul dramatizes the story of María, a young Mayan woman who is promised to the coffee plantation foreman, despite her desire for a lowly coffee cutter named Pepe. Dreaming of absconding with Pepe to a romanticized vision of the United States, María eventually has the encounter with modernity she so yearned for, but not for the reasons she had hoped. In addition to the impressive naturalistic performances from the film’s non-professional cast, Ixcanul’s visuals are extremely powerful, with radiant bronze skin tones, textured interiors, and the requisite breathtaking landscapes.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details

Director Jayro Bustamante
Country Guatemala
Genre Drama
Writer Jayro Bustamante
Producer Jayro Bustamante Edgard Tenembaum Pilar Peredo Marina Peralta
Production Year 2015
Running Time 93 minutes
5

La Camioneta

Director Mark Kendall
Production Year 2012

Available on Vimeo on Demand, Amazon.

Synopsis

Every day dozens of decommissioned school buses leave the United States on a southward migration that carries them to Guatemala, where they are repaired, repainted, and resurrected as the brightly colored camionetas that bring the vast majority of Guatemalans to work each day. Since 2006, nearly 1,000 camioneta drivers and fare collectors have been murdered for either refusing or being unable to pay the extortion money demanded by local Guatemalan gangs. La Camioneta follows one such bus on its transformative journey.


Film Details

Director Mark Kendall
Country Guatemala United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Rafael González
Production Year 2012
Running Time 71 minutes
6

Invasión

Director Abner Benaim
Country Panama, Argentina
Production Year 2014

Available on Vimeo on Demand.

Synopsis

In this documentary, filmmaker Abner Benaim takes audiences back in history to December 1989 when 30,000 U.S. troops invaded Panama because then President George H.W. Bush wanted dictator General Manuel Noriega out of power and to keep control of the Panama Canal, an area the U.S. used heavily for shipping cargo. The invasion’s code name was “Operation Just Cause.” In the doc, Benaim interviews civilians, military personnel, politicians, and even gets to speak to former General Noriega to get his take on the incident 15 years later. Was the invasion by the U.S. justifiable, or was there more to the politics of the time than most people think?

Kiko Martinez

Film Details

Director Abner Benaim
Country Panama Argentina
Genre Documentary
Writer Abner Benaim
Producer Alejandro Israel Abner Benaim Gema Juarez Allen
Production Year 2014
Running Time 64 minutes
7

Granito

Director Pamela Yates
Production Year 2011

Available on Amazon.

Synopsis

Focusing on how the armed conflict that unfolded in Guatemala in the 1980s affected the country’s indigenous population, this documentary aims to revisit the memories of the genocide perpetrated under the “scorched earth” military campaigns in order to seek justice. Five central characters provide diverse perspectives into the events that resulted in the deaths of 200,000 Maya people, including 45,000 disappeared, and that indelibly marked their homeland’s past, present, and future.  

Carlos Aguilar

Film Details

Director Pamela Yates
Country Guatemala Spain United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Paco de Onis
Production Year 2011
Running Time 103 minutes
8

When the Mountains Tremble

Production Year 1983

Available on Amazon.

Synopsis

Centered on indigenous leader and Nobel Peace Laureate, Rigoberta Menchú, one of the most iconic and influential figures in recent Latin American history, the filmmaking duo use an amalgamation of distinct visual materials to chronicle the struggles of Guatemala’s indigenous population against their own government’s oppressive policies. Menchú emerged as a voice for social revolution during wartime, which makes her contributions to her people’s fight all the more remarkable, as the engaging doc depicts.

Carlos Aguilar

Film Details

Director Newton Thomas Sigel Pamela Yates
Country Guatemala United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Peter Kinoy
Production Year 1983
Running Time 83 minutes
9

500 Years

Director Pamela Yates
Production Year 2017
500 Years HRWFF
Courtesy of '500 Years' Photo credit: Daniel Hernández-Salazar
500 Years 02
'500 Years' Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival Photo credit: Saul Martinez
500 Years - Ríos-Montt-and-Attorneys
Ríos Montt and Attorneys in '500 Years' Photo credit: Daniel Hernández Salazar
500 Years 01
'500 Years' Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival

Available on Amazon.

Synopsis

The third film in a trilogy about Guatemala, this installment explores the sweeping historical significance of the war crimes trial of General Ríos Montt and the toppling of corrupt president Otto Pérez Molina. Pamela Yates gracefully engages the indigenous Mayan population who experienced genocide at the hands of a long-standing repressive government. Silenced family members and eyewitnesses come forward to share their individual stories with the desire that their underreported, horrific treatment receive the attention it deserves. Spoken in Spanish and native Mayan languages, 500 Years delicately weaves archival footage with new interviews and emotional courtroom scenes to shine light on a growing movement to fend off the systematic aggression toward an underrepresented people. Focusing on the recent events of a country that has suffered for generations at the hands of a ruling elite, the film hails the nation’s citizens banding together on a quest for justice – and emerging as a beacon of hope.


Film Details

Director Pamela Yates
Country United States
Genre Documentary
Producer Paco de Onis
Production Year 2017
Running Time 106 minutes
10

Finding Oscar

Director Ryan Suffern
Production Year 2016

Available on Amazon.

Synopsis

In 1982, an elite Guatemalan government squad massacred over 200 residents of the rural village of Dos Erres. The number merely added to the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives, or were disappeared during the country’s 36-year-long civil war. As it turns out, two young boys survived the massacre. More improbably, their story and survival was the only key to finding out precisely what happened back in 1982. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall, Finding Oscar traces the story of finding one of the boys and the quest for justice that followed.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Ryan Suffern
Country Guatemala United States
Genre Documentary
Writer Ryan Suffern Mark Monroe
Producer Frank Marshall Ryan Suffern
Production Year 2016
Running Time 95 minutes
11

Presos

Country Costa Rica
Production Year 2015

Available on YouTube, HBO Go.

Synopsis

Victoria is a young, middle-class woman whose family is going through a serious financial crisis, forcing her to enroll in night classes so that she can finish high school and to take an inconvenient job that leads her to the La Reforma penitentiary. In the prison, Victoria meets Jason, an inmate. As she explores his world behind bars, she begins to question her own limitations and her sense of freedom. Inspired by his father’s documentary on Costa Rican prisons, Tico director Esteban Ramírez takes the same social themes and translates them to the big screen, showing that one doesn’t need to be in prison in order to be a prisoner.

Camila Rodriguez

Film Details

Director Esteban Ramírez
Country Costa Rica
Genre Drama
Writer Walter Fernández Esteban Ramírez
Producer Amaya Izquierdo
Production Year 2015
Running Time 97 minutes
12

Uno: la historia de un gol

Country El Salvador
Production Year 2010

Available on YouTube.

Synopsis

In the early 1980s, as El Salvador was in the midst of its brutal civil war, a group of Salvadoran futbol players emerged to unite their entire nation with their game. Achieving an unforgettable qualification to the 1982 World Cup in Spain, they would try to score El Salvador’s first World Cup victory. With a homeland ripped apart by guns and guerrillas, their team’s selection provided hope for all Salvadorans. This insightful and honest film recounts a David-and-Goliath story of great hope and terrible disappointment.

Gary Terracino

Film Details
One, the Story of a Goal
Director Gerardo Muyshondt Carlos Moreno
Country El Salvador
Production Year 2010
13

Princesas rojas

Director Laura Astorga
Production Year 2013

Available on YouTube, Google Play.

Synopsis

Forced to leave their lives in Nicaragua and resettled in Costa Rica, two young girls, Claudia and Antonia, must adapt to their new environment in a country mostly unaffected by the turmoil in the region during the 1980s. As the daughters of two Sandinista activists on the run, the sisters experience abandonment, betrayal, and a double life driven by secrecy. Meanwhile, their parents are confronted with their loyalty to the movement they once believed in and their uncertain future.

Carlos Aguilar

Film Details
Red Princesses
Director Laura Astorga
Country Venezuela Costa Rica
Genre Drama
Writer Laura Astorga
Producer Marcela Esquivel Aldrina Valenzuela
Production Year 2013
Running Time 102 minutes
14

Viaje

Director Paz Fábrega
Country Costa Rica
Production Year 2014
viaje Press 1
viaje Press 1
viaje Press 2
viaje Press 2
Viaje Press 3
Viaje Press 3

Available on Fandor.

Synopsis

In this romantic drama, free-spirited Luciana and Pedro meet at a party. They don’t believe in traditional relationships or commitments, but they immediately give in to their intense chemistry; the only thing they abstain from is learning each other’s names and backgrounds. The film’s black-and-white format sits in stark contrast to the varying shades of their passion. When the pair takes a spontaneous trip to the to the gorgeous Rincón de la Vieja National Park together, we watch them go through a process of self-discovery as their relationship develops and frays.

Danette Chavez

Film Details

Director Paz Fábrega
Country Costa Rica
Genre Drama
Writer Paz Fábrega
Producer Paz Fábrega Kattia González
Production Year 2014
Running Time 70 minutes
15

La Yuma

Production Year 2011
Foto-5_La-Yuma
Courtesy of Pantalla CACI
foto la yuma 02
Courtesy of Pantalla CACI
La-Yuma-Imagen-4
Courtesy of Pantalla CACI

Available on Kanopy, YouTube, Google Play.

Synopsis

Nicaragua’s first full-length feature in 20 years, La Yuma tells the story of a young woman who dreams of transcending her bleak life in the slums of Managua by becoming a boxer. The film provides a glimpse of life in a country where gender and class inequality are an everyday challenge.


Film Details

Director Florence Jaugey
Country Nicaragua Spain Mexico
Genre Drama
Writer Edgar Soberón Juan Sobalvarro Florence Jaugey
Producer Florence Jaugey
Production Year 2011
Running Time 84 minutes
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