We know that day after day we torture you with trailer posts showcasing the latest Latino masterpieces sweeping the global film festival circuit, with no certainty that these films will ever make it stateside for the general public. It’s not easy navigating the choppy waters of international distribution, and the sad truth is, a lot of films never even make it out of the festival hustle. Which is why we are happy to inform you, dear readers, that five Latinoish films from this past Sundance Film Festival will soon be making their way to your local independent theater for a theatrical release.
You certainly remember our coverage of Sundance from back in January, when Latino directors swept the festival’s major awards categories and South Texas native Alfonso Gómez-Rejón made history by selling his latest feature for the highest price tag ever seen. But the Latino contributions didn’t stop there. A number of films featured Latino directors or actors, but broke expectations by showcasing a variety of thematic concerns that didn’t necessarily put their focus squarely on the Latino experience. In Nigerian-American director Rick Famuyiwa’s multicultural teen comedy Dope, for example, Tony Revolori, in a starring role, brought us a tasteful and tender portrayal of a Southern California ghetto nerd, while Gómez-Rejón’s own award-sweeping Me & Earl & The Dying Girl doesn’t feature a Latino character.
While we certainly couldn’t overemphasize the need to continue telling Latino stories, this year’s Sundance Film Festival (along with SXSW and Tribeca for that matter) showed us that we are no longer necessarily bound by that expectation, by the timeworn narratives of immigration, urban poverty and crime, or strained family ties that seem have become the only acceptable Latino subjects for the big money movers and shakers. Latinos are now in every facet of national life, from the mainstream to the margins, and films are finally beginning to reflect that reality.
But don’t take our word for it, here’s a look at our summer must-watch list.
*These movies may not fit the traditional “Latino film” label but they either have a Latino director at the helm behind the camera or feature Latino characters (or subjects of documentaries) in front of the camera.
Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
Penned by writer Jesse Andrews, and based on his novel of the same name, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl follows Greg Gaines, a teenaged amateur filmmaker who can’t quite figure out how to relate to his peers. When Greg begrudgingly befriends a cancer-stricken classmate at the behest of his mother, the two develop a deep platonic bond that slowly reveals new layers and emotional complexity to the characters. But friendship cannot stop the inevitable tragedy of death. Tejano director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón made history with The Dying Girl at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival by cutting the most expensive distribution deal ever seen at the fest.
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.
To attend Remezcla’s June 16 advance screening of Dope in New York, RSVP here.
Ivy League hopeful Malcom, proud lesbian tomboy Diggy, and “14% black” Latino homie Jib (played by Orange County Guatemalteco Tony Revolori of The Grand Budapest Hotel) are fanatics of 90s hip hop, BMX biking, and also happen to play in a punk band together. In other words, they’re objects of ridicule in their working class hood. But a backpack full of ecstasy could very well change their fortunes; that is, if they manage to sell it all without getting caught, or having their Ivy League dreams dashed along the way.
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.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
In The Stanford Prison Experiment, Cuban-American director Kyle Patrick Alvarez brings a dramatic reenactment of a groundbreaking 1971 prison experiment that divided a group of college students into roles as either inmates or prison guards. As the experiment’s leader, Dr. Zimbardo, looked on through a series of security cameras, the students lived out their mock confinement in the basment of the Stanford psychology building. The behavioral changes that resulted when each student adopted their role ultimately revealed unsettling truths about the dynamics of power and repression in the modern prison system. Based on the real-life research of Dr. Zimbardo, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a dramatic period piece that remains relevant over 40 years later.