You Should Stream: ‘Latino,’ An 80s Classic That Chronicles America’s Role in the Contra War

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YouTube’s higher-brow doppelgänger, Vimeo, recently made big moves to get in on the video on demand (VOD) and original content games. That of course means more good stuff for us to watch, but as with any VOD platform it also means massive and overwhelming catalogs – which is why you let Remezcla do the hard work for you.

So, if you needed a reason to dip your toes into Vimeo’s new streaming on-demand platform we’ve found one in the form of a curious little 1985 feature entitled Latino: America’s Secret War in Nicaragua. Directed by counterculture icon Haskell Wexler (considered one of the greatest American cinematographers of all time and renowned for his first directorial endeavor, 1969’s Medium Cool), Latino premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival before embarking on a stateside theatrical run.

Wexler’s first experience with the Contra War in Nicaragua was a 1983 doc he co-directed with Saul Landau entitled Target Nicaragua. Apparently, his indignation with the U.S.’ bold-faced support of a repressive Nicaraguan military insurgency was so strong that he went back down to Central America two years later to film this fictionalized story. It follows a Mexican-American Green Beret sent down to train the bloodthirsty Contra army, but who instead ends up falling in love with a local and gets politicized along the way.

Some might recognize actor Robert Beltran of Star Trek Voyager fame in the main role of Eddie Guerrero (get it?), and his local love interest is played by none other than Annette Charles, or Cha Cha DiGregorio of Grease fame. But don’t fret, the half-Mexican Charles’ real last name was Cardona, which she uncharacteristically repped for her official credit in the film.

Latino was actually filmed in Nicaragua in the heat of the Contra War, so the film’s aesthetic is as raw and urgent as the historical moment it set out to portray. Wexler’s visual sense is nevertheless impeccable as always, while the acting may have suffered a little from the less-than-ideal shooting conditions. Whether Latino ultimately manages to be great is up to you to decide, but it is most certainly an important and idiosyncratic cultural document from a particularly difficult time.