Film

15 Must-See Latino & Latin American Movies Playing at Miami Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'La acusada' courtesy of TIFF
'La acusada' courtesy of TIFF

The bustling Miami film scene has a decidedly Latinx flavor. Case in point, while the 36th edition of the Miami Film Festival boasts films from all over the globe, its Latin American and Latino offerings (particularly those of its local filmmakers) are the ones to watch. When you have a roster of projects that feature the likes of Gael García Bernal, Julieta Zylberberg, and even AOC herself, as well as features tackling teenage sexting, family separation, 1980s CDMX’s queer punk scene, and #MeToo scandals, you know you’re in for a treat.

In addition to the many features that will be screening around Miami at the start of March, the fest also has a number of events to watch out for. Famed Puerto Rican actor Luis Guzmán (Traffic, Narcos, Magnolia) will be taking the stage in “A Talk With Luis Guzmán,” a one-on-one conversation moderated by up and coming Miami actress-writer-producer Maria Corina Ramirez to talk about his transition from social work into acting, as well as his experience as a Latino actor in Hollywood.

On the other end of the spectrum, Variety will be hosting a panel celebrating their “10 Latinxs To Watch” at the festival. The list includes One Day at a Time‘s Marcel RuizAlita: Battle Angel‘s Rosa Salazar, and upcoming Dora the Explorer Isabela Moner as well as Ixcanul director Jayro Bustamante. All will be celebrated at the festival as well being featured in the industry publication’s March 5 issue.

To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve singled out 15 projects we’re very excited to catch during this year’s edition. Check them out below.

MDC’s Miami Film Festival runs March 1-10, 2019.

1

Acusada

Gonzalo Tobal

Barely 20 years old, Dolores Dreier (Lali Espósito), has spent the last two years hiding from the outside world under the ever-watchful eyes of her parents. Dolores suddenly finds herself as the only suspect in her best friend’s murder; she’s the last person to see her alive before her brutal death. Under intrusive media scrutiny, and facing accusations from the general public and the speculation of friends and family, Dolores is feeling hollowed out and drained from the experience. At first reading like a criminal procedural, Gonzalo Tobal’s accomplished second feature Acusada (The Accused) develops into a reflection on the way our society processes true-life crime stories.

Argentina, Mexico
Drama
Gonzalo Tobal, Ulises Porra Guardiola
Matías Roveda, Leticia Cristi, Julio Chavezmontes, Santiago Gallelli, Matías Mosteirín, Hugo Sigman, Axel Kuschevatzky, Benjamin Domenech
2018
108

2

Cómprame un revólver

Julio Hernández Cordón

Julio Hernández Cordón’s Cómprame un revolver i set in an imagined not-so-distant future world where women are a disappearing species. That’s why its young protagonist, Huck (played by Matilde Hernandez, the director’s own daughter) wears a mask. If the armed guys who employ her dad to keep up a baseball field ever found out she’s a girl, she’d surely be taken away. That’s what happened to her older sister and her mother. Shot in dusty desert landscapes with an eye for an anarchic sense of whimsy (Mad Max meets Hook), this narco-dystopia is a fascinating riff on contemporary Mexican violence.

Mexico
Drama
Julio Hernández Cordón
Rodrigo Sebastian Gonzalez, Maria Jose Cordova, Rafael Ley
2018
60

3

Botero

Don Millar

Generally acknowledged as the world’s most popular living artist, the paintings and sculptures of Fernando Botero grace major institutions, private collections, and public spaces all around the globe, and yet little is known about the notoriously private artist himself. This comprehensive, beautifully photographed documentary delves deeply into the dramatic events that shaped Botero’s character, groundbreaking vision, and ambitions. Using numerous interviews with family, art experts, and some skeptics, the filmmakers traveled to 10 cities around the world, showcasing the relationship between the artist and his vast international fan base. Most compelling, however, are the insights into his process and his search for grace in a tumultuous world. Smart, vivacious, and elegant, Botero will satisfy any fan of this remarkable artist and undoubtedly earn him numerous new ones.

Monaco, China, Italy, Canada, Colombia, France, United States
Documentary
Don Millar, Hart Snider
Eric Hogan, Joe Tucker
2018
84

4

Sueño Florianópolis

Ana Katz

Lucrecia (Mercedes Morán) and Pedro (Gustavo Garzón), psychoanalysts both, have been together many years. With their two children nearing adulthood, the couple has decided to re-evaluate their marriage and declare themselves separated. Sort of. The family takes a road trip to Florianópolis, the Brazilian island city where Lucrecia and Pedro once enjoyed an idyllic getaway. They rent a cottage from another middle-aged husband and wife who are also, as it happens, on the verge of a split. Between bouts of swimming, eating, drinking, and karaoke, opportunities arise for adults and adolescents alike to find sex or romance or both. As Lucrecia’s birthday approaches, however, these carefree days prompt deeper questions about the roles we play, the love we share, and the possibilities life still offers.

France, Brazil, Argentina
Family, Drama
Ana Katz, Daniel Katz
Beto Gauss, Camila Groch, Francesco Civita, Dominique Barneaud, Adrien Oumhani, Ana Katz, Nicolás Avruj, Diego Lerman
2018
106

5

Divino amor

Gabriel Mascaro

In the Brazil of 2027, where raves celebrate God’s love and drive-through spiritual-advice booths have become the norm, Joana holds her faith and relationship with God in the highest regard. She uses her job as a notary to carefully goad divorcing couples into reconsidering their split, and she takes comfort in an unusual religious collective that helps keep her own marriage in check. Though she and her husband have struggled to conceive, their efforts to produce a child will eventually bring Joana closer to God than she had ever expected. Through an arresting visual style and vibrant, neospiritual imagery, award-winning director Gabriel Mascaro (Neon Bull, August Winds) draws us into a not-so-distant future where religion has seeped into the texture of daily life, laying bare the subtle hypocrisies that linger at its core.

Denmark, Norway, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil
Drama
Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas Paraizo, Gabriel Mascaro
Rachel Daisy Ellis
2019
101

6

Cascos indomables

Ernesto Villalobos

In the busy streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, a motorcycle courier comes to the realization that things don’t happen out of nowhere. Surrounded by his coworkers and in the midst of big layoffs, Mancha will have to decide between his careless existence on the streets or life on a small island without his bike but in the company of his girlfriend, the only person that seems to understand him.

Costa Rica, Chile
Comedy, Drama
Ernesto Villalobos
: Karina Avellán, Marcelo Quesada
2018
84

7

Esto no es Berlín

Hari Sama

As Mexico anticipates the 1986 World Cup, 17-year-old Carlos is less interested in soccer and more interested in listening to his record collection and admiring Rita, the older sister of his best friend, Gera. Carlos and Gera’s suburban, juvenile monotony is interrupted when Rita’s goth band introduces them to an underground nightclub, the Azteca. The teens are instantly seduced by the Azteca’s regulars and their exhilarating world of performance art, sexual fluidity, and prescription drugs. Carlos and Gera’s friendship is tested as the two explore new identities and face the consequences of adult decisions. Infused with a post-punk soundtrack and brimming with enchanting performances from a promising young cast, Esto no es Berlín delivers an energetic portrait of a clandestine sanctuary propelled by youth fleeing the societal repression of their time.

Mexico
Drama
Rodrigo Ordóñez, Hari Sama, Max Zunino
Ale García, Antonio Urdapilleta, Hari Sama, Verónica Valadez P.
2018
115

8

Las niñas bien

Alejandra Márquez Abella

Sofia (Ilse Salas) and Fernando (Flavio Medina) have it all — money, status, beautiful houses, servants. Fernando has inherited all his wealth, acquired by his father with the help of his uncle Javier. At dinner one night, Javier announces he is stepping aside. There are a few dark clouds on the horizon: their American business associates have backed out of a deal, and the President of Mexico has just appeared on television with ominous news about the economy. Initially, their world remains untroubled. Sofia watches with slight hauteur as two new arrivistes, a young woman and her rather gauche husband, try to enter her social circle. But gradually cracks appear in Sofia and Fernando’s manicured lives, as the social and economic order starts to shift around them. Alejandra Márquez Abella captures all of the interplay with complete assurance. Her film is perfectly cast, beautifully framed, and carefully observed – décor, clothes, setting. Nothing is out of place in this insightful, quasi-tragic look at a time that has many parallels in the present

Mexico
Drama
Alejandra Márquez Abella
Rodrigo S. González, Gabriela Maire
2018
93

9

Knock Down the House

Rachel Lears

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young, bold Puerto Rican bartender from the Bronx, works double shifts to save her family’s home from foreclosure. Struggling with her own financial problems, she knows many of her neighbors are also hard-pressed to make a living. In order to bring representation to one of the most marginalized constituencies in America, Alexandria runs for office. This film follows four women — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin — who join a movement of insurgent candidates to topple incumbents in an electric primary race for Congress. At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, these four women — all political outsiders — unite to do what many consider impossible. Their efforts result in a legendary upset.

United States
Documentary
Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick
Sarah Olson, Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick
2019
86

10

The Great Mother

Dave LaMattina, Chad Walker

In Miami, immigration activist Nora Sandigo witnessed a crisis of U.S. born children being separated from their undocumented parents. It started with two children. She became their legal guardian to save them from being trapped in the foster care system where they would risk never being reunited with their real parents. Word spread and she eventually became a legal guardian to over 1,000 children facing a similar plight. This powerful documentary by directors Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker (I Am Big Bird) gives human faces to political headlines. We get to know some of the families whose lives have been impacted by Sandigo’s crusade. We watch her financial and emotional resources be tested to the breaking point. But she shows us the power of what one person can do when they open their heart.

Colombia, United States
Dave LaMattina
Dave LaMattina, Chad Walker
2017
97

11

Vandal

Jose Daniel Freixas

Nick, better known as “Damage” in the streets of Miami, is the young leader of an infamous graffiti crew that leaves its mark wherever it goes. As they grow larger in fame and number, problems start arising — Nick’s personal life goes on a downward spiral; the illegal nature of his passion is bound to get him in trouble with the authorities, and, on top of that, he has to learn to fend off the local rival crew. A local production shot in Miami’s neighborhoods of Wynwood, Little Havana and Little Haiti, Vandal takes the very thrilling world of graffiti art and explores the struggle of street artists to keep their art alive as well as the social backlash that goes hand in hand with pursuing their biggest passion. Cuban-American director Jose Daniel Freixas, a graffiti artist in his own right since the age of 10, puts his first hand experience in the world of graffiti to good use by highlighting Miami’s gritty streets as well as its multicultural heritage to show a city full of color, life and passion.

United States
Jose Daniel Freixas, Paul Taegel, Derek Mether, Andrew Bozalis, Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Freixas
2019
96

12

Temblores

Jayro Bustamante

In Guatemala City, the very ground the city is built on is fragile and unreliable for its people. It shakes and destroys at will, often with catastrophic results. Under these circumstances, Guatemalans hold strongly onto their faith; it’s the only stable thing they have ever known. Pablo is no different, a good Catholic man who has visited church all his life and is faithful to his wife Isa and their two beautiful children. But when he meets Francisco, he immediately falls for him, which is a sin in the eyes of his church and his family. As Pablo battles his own internalized homophobia, he has to deal with his surroundings’ disgust at this discovery, too: he loses his job, the right to see his children, and the support of his community. Encouraged by Isa and their Pastor, he starts attending conversion therapy, and soon enough, everything seems to be going back to normal — that is, until the ground starts trembling again.

Guatemala, France
Drama
Jayro Bustamante
Gérard Lacroix, De Jesus Peralta Orellana Marina, Nicolas Steil, Edgard Tenembaum
2019
107

13

Juanita

Leticia Tonos Paniagua

Juanita (Cheddy García) is a Dominican immigrant who has been living illegally in Madrid for some years, but as trouble closes in on her, she flees into hiding in the countryside. There she meets Mariano (played by the always-popular Tito Valverde), a lonely Spanish farmer. One thing leads to another, and Mariano soon brings Juanita out of the shadows as his new life partner! Soon, Juanita pressures Mariano to bring her home for a long overdue trip to Santo Domingo for Christmas. Not only is Mariano visiting a country and culture that is new to him, he is about to experience the adventure of having Dominican in-laws, beginning with Juanita’s skeptical mother (played by La Reina de Bachata, Milly Quezada). With Juanita, a poignant dramedy on immigration, love and survival, director Leticia Tonos rewards us with a beautifully modulated combination of pathos and laughter.

Dominican Republic, Spain
Leticia Tonos Paniagua, Juan Carlos Campos Sagaseta
Leticia Tonos Paniagua
2018
95

14

Voy por ti

Carmen La Roche

Navigating the power dynamics of high school can be a complex and brutal process, especially if, like Marcos, you don’t quite fit in with the rest of your classmates. He likes collecting insects, which is very different from collecting erotic videos shot in the bathroom, which is what Yorman does. The two of them would never even interact if it weren’t for Maryuri, the girl they both like. But she is also the reason Marcos falls off the deep end, adding harassment to the bullying he is already experiencing in an attempt to get her attention. In Following You director Carmen La Roche offers a candid exploration of a phenomenon that deeply affects contemporary teenagers: sexting and bullying.

Venezuela, United States
Drama
Carmen La Roche
Carmen La Roche, Maurizio Liberatoscioli
2019
84

15

Errol Flynn’s Ghost: Hollywood in Havana

Gaspar González

Cuba’s pre-revolution obsession with Hollywood cinema in the first half of the 20th century led Havana to create some of the most majestic movie palaces of their time in the Americas, where millions of Cubans spent their evenings gazing at the silver screen stars of yesteryear. One of those stars, Errol Flynn, Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler, traveled to Cuba in late 1958 as he struggled to overcome his alcoholism and stage a Hollywood comeback, but instead found himself in the middle of a real-life adventure more improbable than the plot of any film he ever made: recklessly endorsing the rhetoric of Fidel Castro and the soon-to-come revolution. Flynn self-produced a disastrous B-movie, Cuban Rebel Girls, and died soon afterwards. Miami filmmaker Gaspar González finds in Flynn’s sad demise a fitting parallel to the end of Hollywood glamor in the Havana movie palaces. Although many of the great Havana movie houses are still standing, they are haunted by their long-gone heydays. With a detailed and careful eye, González reflects on the remnants of a film culture that so deeply affected and defined a nation’s collective memory.

United States
Documentary
Gaspar González
Gaspar González
2018
50