There are no shortage of binge-watchable television shows on Netflix. From La casa de las flores and La casa de papel to other shows who don’t have “house” in their title, the streaming service is chock-full of TV to keep you nailed to your couch for hours on end. But amid all of that episodic content is one of the largest media libraries around. Which means that if you wanted to look beyond stories set at Litchfield prison or Hawkins town, you can find yourself with a number of critically acclaimed Latin American movies at your disposal. In that, Netflix can stand in as your go-to place to program your very own film festival with the best coming out of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and beyond.
We’ve compiled a list to get you started. Whether you’re in the mood to see Luis Gerardo Méndez lose his mind while at a resort or see Sônia Braga fend off predatory building developers, this eclectic mix of festival winners, Oscar nominees and carefully observed dramas have something for everyone. Take a look below and marvel at the quality of Latin American filmmaking on display.
This is the story of adolescent Ulises, whose sincere love for his girlfriend Sofía is complicated when his father forces him to join the family business. As Ulises reluctantly enters the sordid world of human trafficking and forced prostitution alongside his older brother, he is compelled to exploit his deep bond with Sofía in order to make her his first victim. Director David Pablos brings an unmistakably personal vision to his material along with years of extensive research that imbues the film with a level of chilling verisimilitude. This is only enhanced by the film’s naturalistically-lit, almost documentary-like aesthetic.
El ciudadano ilustre
A renowned Argentinean writer—a Nobel Prize winner no less!—gets an invitation to return to his small hometown to receive that year’s “Distinguished Citizen” award. The writer, who has lived abroad for the past few decades yet whose work is all about the small town life he left behind, hasn’t been home since he was a teenager. The homecoming becomes, in Duprat and Cohn’s dark dramedy, a clash of fiction and reality, of parochialism and cosmopolitanism, where it slowly dawns on the writer that everything back home is not as he left nor as he continued to imagine it. Oscar Martínez won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for his performance as the literary luminary stranded in a farcical world of his own making.
La novia del desierto
Paulina García (Gloria, Little Men) delivers another warm and sympathetic performance in Cecilia Atán’s and Valeria Pivato’s feature debut. García plays Teresa, a woman who has worked all her life as a live-in maid for a Buenos Aires family who is left adrift after the family sells their house. On her way to a new job in a distant town, Teresa loses her bags with all her belongings. She searches for them with the help of traveling salesman El Gringo and ends up finding love and her own potential.
Miguel “Bayoneta” Galíndez (Club de Cuervos’ Luis Gerardo Méndez) is a retired boxer from Tijuana, who through a roll of the dice ends up living in a small complex in Turuk, Finlandia. When he’s not at the gym working as a boxing trainer, he is hitting the bottle somewhere. But an impending need for redemption will lead him back onto the ring to fight one of his worst enemies: his past. This is Kyzza Terrazas’ third feature film, a powerful piece in which he collaborates with Luis Gerardo Méndez, one of the most regarded actors of his generation; in it, he successfully portrays the emotional turmoil of a tortured character living in the vast Scandinavian landscape and its merciless cold.
Pedro and Eva arrive at the Vistamar mega-resort to “heal” their lives. Settling into a private villa with their young son, they’re surprised to find another family at the door; a clerical mistake has left them double-booked. The families make do, attending the resort’s time-share seminar and enjoying its pools and activities, and they are catered to by the staff of “leisure experts,” including Andres and Gloria, an estranged, middle-aged couple. While Gloria advances her career, Andres toils in a laundry job, dubious of the resort’s new corporate ownership. As Pedro becomes paranoid that his family is being pried away from him, he and Andres band together to expose the sinister forces at work in the tropical paradise. The film stars Luis Gerardo Méndez (Club de Cuervos), RJ Mitte, Miguel Rodarte, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Montserrat Maranon, and Andrés Almeida.
Clara (a luminous Sonia Braga) is the last resident of the Aquarius, an classic art deco building built in Recife’s upper-class Boa Viagem Avenue. Despite being offered a good deal for her apartment by developers, this spry 65-year old is not ready to part from the place she’s made her home and where she raised her children. The construction company, which is intent on building a New Aquarius, begins implementing increasingly aggressive methods to get the former music critic to sell. But all this drama creates for Clara is a renewed sense of vigor that pushes her to think back to her life lived and to embrace her her present-day vitality.
O menino e o mundo
This modern-day fable follows the adventures of a young boy who leaves his small village after the death of his father only to find himself immersed in a chaotic and often confusing modern world filled with strange creatures, fantastic machines and giant, impersonal monuments to human progress. Filled with idiosyncratic plays on perspective and employing a variety of techniques — including collages pasted alongside the thick, waxy lines of Crayola crayons — O menino e o mundo feels like stepping into the imagination of a child set to a joyous samba soundtrack. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.
Dali (Anajosé Aldrete Echevarria) and her 8 year old son Pepe (Esteban Ávila) take a vacation with Dali’s boyfriend, Chavez (Tenoch Huerta) during the film’s titular Easter holiday. Instead of bringing them closer, their joint beach holiday brings out things in each of them that threaten to pull this emerging family apart, especially the more we learn about Pepe’s absent father and the fraught relationship that binds Dali and Chavez. In this tenderly observed drama about grief, director Alejandra Márquez Abella approaches her unlikely trio with aplomb, slowly letting them—and their ever bifurcated storylines—unravel before us, giving us an unforgettable beachside getaway.
Elena, a young Brazilian woman, travels to New York with the same dream as her mother, to become a movie actress. She leaves behind her childhood spent in hiding during the years of the military dictatorship. She also leaves Petra, her 7-year-old sister. Two decades later, Petra also becomes an actress and goes to New York in search of Elena. She only has a few clues about her: home movies, newspaper clippings, a diary and letters. At any moment Petra hopes to find Elena walking in the streets in a silk blouse. Gradually, the features of the two sisters are confused; we no longer know one from the other. When Petra finally finds Elena in an unexpected place, she has to learn to let her go. Costa’s dreamy autobiographical documentary is unlike anything else out there.
Ely (Mora Arenillas) is 17 years old. After school, she works few hours at a pet shop where she sometimes has sex with the owner’s son. She leads an unenviable life, which is precisely the perfect backdrop for Pablo Giorgelli’s gritty and quiet sophomore feature film. When Ely learns that she is pregnant, her inner world explodes even though she tries to go on with her daily routine as if nothing was different. She is afraid and upset, and she knows that, whatever she decides to do, there is no turning back. Giorgelli and and co-writer Maria Laura Gargarella create more than just a timely “abortion drama”; Invisible is both a character portrait and an indictment of the insidious institutions that govern Argentina when it comes to reproductive health.