We’ve all been there. You sit down to catch a film on Netflix and you begin the dreaded routine. You scroll through its newest additions wondering how the streaming service has all the money to make a series about British royalty. You flick through the titles you apparently added to your list that don’t sound so appealing right now. You read a bunch of descriptions of documentaries you don’t understand why anyone would watch. And the next thing you know, it’s been more than half an hour and you’ve already eaten all the popcorn you made.
But worry not. If you’re a nonfiction film fan, we got you covered. Looking for something like Making a Murderer but with more Colombian hippos? How about something like Fast Food Nation but about farm workers in Florida? A music doc like Gimme Shelter but about the punk-rock scene in Los Angeles? You’ve come to the right place. Knowing that many of these docs featuring Latino talent can get lost in the shuffle (or altogether hidden given those wonky Netflix algorithms), we’ve combed through the streaming service’s archives and found 15 of the best Latino docs you can stream right now on Netflix.
Check ’em out below.
The makers of Mala Mala hit the streets and clubs of Puerto Rico to film a joyous and often raucous look at the lives of trans women (mostly performers) in San Juan. Though they travel the road to transition differently, they are united in their fight for equality. The trans spokeswomen engage in street-level activism and march in support of an anti-LGBTQ discrimination legislation. But the film is careful not to define its subjects by their struggle, so there’s plenty of glitter and double-stick tape to go along with the blood, sweat, and tears.
Fast food in America has come under attack, and rightly so. But that makes it easy to forget that there’s a dark side to even the healthier options. In his documentary Food Chains, Sanjay Rawal takes up the plight of migrant farmworkers by focusing on their fight in Immokalee, Florida. Forrest Whitaker narrates as the workers form the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to push back against supermarket giants who essentially pressure farm owners to pay poverty wages. Eva Longoria executive-produced this film that’s a great follow-up to Harvest of Shame.
The Hand That Feeds
The Hand That Feeds is a thought-provoking and relevant film that ought to make viewers think twice about how they spend their money. Amid the Macs, crusty bagels, and caramel lattes on Manhattan’s Upper East Side café scene, a struggle is taking place. Immigrant workers organize themselves to fight a culture of exploitation and mistreatment that gives them zero rights and only slightly more in wages. Due to their undocumented status, they have come up against a brick wall in previous attempts to improve conditions, but this time, their determination builds into a popular movement that draws on the wider community, the courts, and Occupy Wall Street protestors.
What exactly happened to the Armani suits, mink coats, and feathered hats of the Superfly era? When did urban fashion become synonymous with Pumas, Lee Jeans, and Kangols? These are the questions taken on by director Sacha Jenkins in Fresh Dressed, an in-depth look at the development of hip hop street fashion, including the inevitable role played by New York Latinos in its evolution. The result is a fascinating reflection on the cultural shifts that characterized urban America in the 1970s and 80s.
Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives
In the 1990s, Robert “Bobbito” García and Adrian “Stretch” Bartos emerged as two of the most influential hip-hop DJs in American radio with their quirky, offbeat nightly radio hour, The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, on Columbia University’s WKCR. From 1990 to 1998, the two friends gave savvy listeners their first taste of unsigned acts like Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan and Big Pun. Directed by Bobbito himself, Stretch and Bobbito delves into the deep friendship that drove the show, as well as the unlikely cult following they developed along the way.
Bellas de Noche
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mexico’s burlesque culture was at its disco-era heyday. The clubs were filled with beautiful women who razzled and dazzled. Decades later, Beauties of the Night introduces us to five of those former showgirls who recount their lives in the spotlight and give us a glimpse of what they’re up to nowadays. Shot over eight years, María José Cuevas’s documentary is a thrilling look at these exotic dancers who continue to search for the love and adoration they got on stage all those years ago.
When Two Worlds Collide
In this tense and immersive tour de force, audiences are taken directly into the line of fire between powerful, opposing Peruvian leaders who will stop at nothing to keep their respective goals intact. On the one side is President Alan Garcia, who, eager to enter the world stage, begins aggressively extracting oil, minerals and gas from untouched Indigenous Amazonian land. He is quickly met with fierce opposition from Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, whose impassioned speeches against Garcia’s destructive actions prove a powerful rallying cry to throngs of his supporters. When Garcia continues to ignore their pleas, a tense war of words erupts into deadly violence.
Shut out from the outside world by their overprotective Peruvian father, the Angulo brothers’ only know about what is beyond their apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan through the films they watch obsessively together. To keep themselves entertained, they also reenact some of their favorites. The imaginative brood creates their own props and costumes from everyday household objects like cereal boxes and yoga mats. Their parents, an unlikely pair, met when their American mother went on vacation to Peru and their father was her hiking guide. The film won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-US border, is infamous for the drug violence that has made it one of the world’s most dangerous cities, with an annual murder rate in the thousands and where bloodshed and chaos are everyday realities for beleaguered inhabitants. Yet the vast wealth and power of the traffickers has allowed them to build their own cult of personality as pop stars and film stars. This unsettling and extremely graphic documentary follows narcocorrido singer El Komander, who waves a bazooka around on stage in front of screaming fans at cartel-organized concerts. Needless to say, these are places where you wouldn’t want to spill someone’s drink.
Los Punks: We Are All We Have
Los Punks is an intimate look at the punk scene in South Central and East Los Angeles. Wanting to go beyond the preconceived notions you may have of punk (that it’s loud, chaotic, violent, etc.) Angela Boatwright thrusts you deep into the backyard gigs that attract mostly Latino crowds and which are keeping the punk scene alive. You’ll see the crazy hairstyles, the outrageous outfits, the makeshift stages, but more importantly, you’ll see the essence of punk. Her images contrast the energetic and seemingly rage-filled performances with a vision of the community that the music creates. As one punk rocker in the film who admits his band is the thing that’s kept him from committing suicide, “punk rock is about persevering rather than giving up.”
Cidade de Deus: 10 Anos Depois
When City of God was released in 2002 it became a worldwide sensation. The favela-set drug and crime thriller from Fernando Meirelles (co-directed by Kátia Lund) focused on the Cidade de Deus neighborhood and used mostly non-professional actors to tell its gripping story. The celebrated flick toured the world’s film festivals and eventually earned four Oscar nominations. Ten years later, documentarians Cavi Borges and Luciano Vidiga have caught up with 18 of the original performers in Meirelles’s project to see how their lives have been affected by their involvement in the project. As a look into the way the community was portrayed and impacted by the on-screen grisly violence as well as a behind-the-scenes look at Brazil’s film and television industry, City of God: 10 Years Later is a must-watch for fans of one of Brazil’s most famous twenty-first century features.
Campo de Jogo
This one’s for you fútbol fans out there. In Sunday Ball, Eryk Rocha has crafted a documentary about Rio’s “favela league” making its final match feel as urgent, fascinating, and nail-biting as the matches taking place that same summer is fancier stadiums when Brazil hosted the World Cup. With a camera that captures even the smallest plays on the field you’ll feel like you’ve never seen a soccer match quite like this one before, at once a celebration of the country’s fixation on the sport and the joy that it brings those who play it even in dust-filled fields.
Matthew “Mateo” Stoneman does not look like your regular Mariachi singer. He’s much too pale—he’s a ginger! But when he croons his songs, you could very well forget that he’s a gringo. Having learnt Spanish while in jail where he fell in love with Cuban music, this LA-based musician is intent on making it big. He uses his savings from playing gigs to take trips to Havana where he records songs in those studios he’s grown to admire. Charming almost to a fault, and perhaps all too eager to use his talents to woo Cuban women, Mateo is the type of guy documentaries were made to follow. He’s a cad and he’s a dreamer, and scored by his own music, Mateo is a winner.
A vida privada dos hipopótamos
This one is for all you Making a Murderer fans. Chris Kirk, an American guy, is behind bars in Brazil. He’s intent on telling his story to filmmakers Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani, who surely saw his name splashed over headlines when he was captured. Only Kirk, who his friends say was a really nice guy (aren’t they always?) and kind of a geek (he worked in IT), is focused on only one aspect of his story: how he met “V,” a beautiful Colombian woman, while traveling to that country to see Pablo Escobar’s hippos. Yes, you read that right: Escobar had hippos! So, why is Kirk in jail, how does it connect to “V,” as well as to the endless amount of texts, photos, and documents Bühler and Mariani have access to in Kirk’s hard drive that suggest some sort of jealous rage? There’s really only one way to find out.
Shot in the inhospitable Cerro Rico mining district in Potosi, Bolivia, Minerita takes viewers inside the world of the women who live and work in these silver mines. Lucia (40), Ivonne (16) and Abigail (17) anchor the short film and offer a bleak view of what it means to be a woman in this male-dominated community. Lucia carries TNT with her to ward off attackers, Ivonne takes rocks with her in case a man tries to sexually assault her, and Abigail risks her life going down into the mine itself, not even knowing that as a minor she’s not officially allowed to work there. Offering a stark portrait of these resilient women, Minerita is a sobering reminder of the toxic machismo that runs through much of our world still.