Summer is here! After living through a hellish winter, I don’t want to hear any of you complaining about how hot and sticky it is or that you’re dripping in sweat. For us sun worshippers, it’s a magical time of year. It’s three straight months of perfect beach, paleta, and frozen boozey drink weather. But, since some of you might not be fans of sunburns and sand castles, this list of movies can get you in a summery mood without ever leaving your comfy couch. Here are six of our favorite Latino and Latin American films about summer.
Like a Tennessee Williams play set in Argentina’s countryside, La ciénaga focuses on grand ladies in decline, swampy settings, family bonds and binds that forever pull, and alcohol, lots of alcohol. Family matriarch Mecha is so stewed in her own alcoholic juices that she rarely makes it out of bed, an especially impressive feat given that she’s in charge of four rowdy children and a useless husband all sharing a country house for the summer. Her cousin Tali lives nearby, also the mother of four children. Although her drinking is more intermittent and her husband slightly more useful, she doesn’t seem any more focused than Mecha and spends her days, when not at Mecha’s, randomly fixing up the house or thinking of things to get for the kids. Jose, the oldest of Mecha’s children, is knowingly handsome and sleeping with much older Mercedes and also possibly the young maid and seems to make sexually tinged moves amongst the younger girls too. It’s all very confusing, convoluted, and possibly incestuous, but in the chaos, clutter, and alcoholic haze underscored by the camera’s at times blurred imagery, it’s very hard to make out clear causes and effects or intentional rights and wrongs. Like real life, La ciénaga is messy, unclear, filled with despair and danger, and for very brief moments heart-achingly beautiful.
Raising Victor Vargas
Raising Victor Vargas details the romantic foibles of a group of Lower East Side teenagers, featuring breakout actors Victor Rasuk and Melonie Diaz (both of whom will show up in a few years on How to Make it in America.) After getting caught with Fat Donna, Victor sets out to rehabilitate his reputation by getting with Judy, the hottie on the block who has to be careful who she winds up with. The whole film is an ode to stoop sitting, public pools, blaring salsa, and teenage lotharios.
El ultimo verano de la Boyita
This coming-of-age tale from director/writer/producer Julia Solomonoff follows a young girl named Jorgelina (Guadalupe Alonso) who goes off to stay on the countryside with her father. While there, she develops a friendship with local farm boy Mario (Nicolás Treise), which soon turns into young love. One day, returning from a horse ride, she discovers a bloodstain on Mario’s saddle and another one on his trousers. Jorgelina tries to understand, but Mario, ashamed and insecure, has no clue of why he is not like the other boys. When the children’s parents try and put a stop to their friendship, Jorgelina decides she will have to do something to keep the two together.
Alejandro, a tough and resourceful Latino street kid on the verge of adolescence, lives and works in an auto-body repair shop in a sprawling junkyard on the outskirts of Queens, New York. In this chaotic world and left without parents, Alejandro struggles to make a better life for himself and his sixteen-year-old sister Isamar.
El verano de los peces voladores
Director Marcela Said sticks to her documentary-making roots in a film that’s more show than tell. The Summer of Flying Fish examines the real-life conflict between Euro-Chilean landowners who greedily protect their “real estate,” and the indigenous Mapuche tribe who look at themselves as belonging to the land. Said populates her world with non-actors who have a real stake in the events that unfold, and she relies on outspoken characters and their age-old hostilities in place of exposition. The end result is a very intimate film that’s just as heartbreaking as it is political.
Mate-me por favor
A string of rapes and murders are captivating the entire population of Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca, a new neighborhood whose open fields are the type of horror movie backdrops we’ve all grown to fear. But for a group of schoolgirls, led by Bia (Valentina Herszage), the attacks and the victims become thoroughly fascinating. What seems at first like a straight-up slasher flick soon turns into a more complex exploration of female sexual discovery where petty jealousies and school rivalries mimic the violence and sexual aggression that pervade Barra and its surroundings.