Considered by many as one of the most important film festivals to be a part of in North America, the SXSW Film Festival takes place in Austin, Texas through March 21. With a wealth of films from around the world, Latinos are well represented at this year’s event. From heartfelt documentaries to disturbing horror movies to musical biopics, SXSW is taking audiences to Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, and even 1960s New York City where Latin boogaloo seemed to be playing on every street corner back then.
Take a look below at some of the films with a Latin influence that are playing at SXSW in the next week. If you’re in the Austin area, stop in and catch a few world premieres before the festival is over.
For a complete schedule of films, visit sxsw.com/film.
Kingdom of Shadows
This powerful documentary follows three people grappling with the hard choices and destructive consequences of the U.S.-Mexico drug war. Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz weaves together the seemingly disconnected stories of an activist nun in deeply scarred Monterrey, Mexico, a U.S. Federal Agent on the border, and a former Texas smuggler to reveal the human side of an often-misunderstood conflict that has resulted in the “disappearance” of more than 23,000 people in Mexico — a growing human rights crisis that has only recently made international headlines.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Lizzie Velasquez, a young Latina woman from Austin, Texas, decides she is not going to be the victim of cyber bullying when she learns that a YouTube video she is featured in has been uploaded online and titled “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” Velasquez, who was born with a rare health condition that keeps her from gaining weight, becomes an activist against online harassment and is invited to speak at a TED Talk conference about her life growing up with this rare disease and her commitment to talking about the negative effects cyber bullies can have on a person’s self esteem.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz
This Spanish horror film tells the story of a beautiful and famous young actress who suddenly dies and is taken to the morgue where a hospital orderly and his drunk friends think it would be fun to practice necrophilia on her the night before she is scheduled for an autopsy. But is she really dead? Something tells us this is going to end up a lot more gruesome than the scene in Kill Bill where Uma Thurman is almost taken advantage of in a hospital before waking up from a coma. And that scene ended with someone’s head getting smashed with a door!
Starting his life as a musical prodigy, Brazilian composer, accordionist, and singer Dominguinhos is featured in this documentary about his life and legendary status in the Brazilian music world. Taking archival footage of Dominguinhos and combining it with a great soundtrack by musicians such as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Hermeto Pascoal, Djavan, and Nara Leão, directors Mariana Aydar, Joaquim Castro, Eduardo Nazarian bring to life – through dance-worthy Brazilian music – this vibrant, international superstar who popularized a number of genres, including bossa nova, tropicália, funk, jazz, and more.
Considered by many at México’s version of superstar Madonna, pop-rock singer and songwriter Gloria Trevi’s life becomes a feature film with actress Sofía Espinosa taking on the part of the “Supreme diva of Mexican Pop.” The film promises to cover everything from how she rose to stardom from a poverty-stricken childhood all the way to a sex scandal that rocked the Spanish-speaking world in 1999. Whether this narrative makes Espinosa a household name like Selena did for Jennifer Lopez in 1997 remains to be seen, but all eyes are on her and what she can do with the iconic title role and how well she can capture Trevi’s style on stage.
We Like It Like That
Latin boogaloo music in 1960s New York City takes center stage in this documentary from director Mathew Ramirez Warren. With musicians like Joe Bataan, Johnny Colon, and Pete Rodriguez taking the lead, Warren covers everything that was happening in the era through interviews, archival footage, and images of live performances. Journey through this musical revolution and learn about the performers whose rhythms got everyone on the dance floor and defined a new generation of music on the East Coast.
In this documentary, filmmaker Abner Benaim takes audiences back in history to December 1989 when 30,000 U.S. troops invaded Panama because then President George H.W. Bush wanted dictator General Manuel Noriega out of power and to keep control of the Panama Canal, an area the U.S. used heavily for shipping cargo. The invasion’s code name was “Operation Just Cause.” In the doc, Benaim interviews civilians, military personnel, politicians, and even gets to speak to former General Noriega to get his take on the incident 15 years later. Was the invasion by the U.S. justifiable, or was there more to the politics of the time than most people think?
Los reyes del pueblo que no existe
Betzabé García’s documentary follows three families living in a village in northwestern México that has been partially submerged in water. All the families have every reason to leave, but their ties to their community are too strong to allow them to abandon their homes and their lives. Will the families stay put and help save their fellow neighbors from ruin, or will their own loss push them to the breaking point?
Explore the life of one of the last muleteer families (people who drives mules) in Colombia in this documentary by first-time director Nicolás Macario Alonso. Alonso follows two brothers as one of them is forced to move into the city to start a new life because their ill mother can no longer live in the mountains. With one brother taking on the role of caretaker for his mother, the other stays behind to maintain their mountain home and continue with the family tradition of mule driving. But with memories of their mule-driving father and grandfather lingering in their heads, the two set out on one last journey into the Andes Mountains.