Pride month may be over but that’s no reason to stop celebrating the LGBTQ community. For those in the Los Angeles area, the preeminent LGBTQ festival in the world, Outfest, is returning this month with over 190 projects from 30 different countries. Opening with Francis Lee’s critically acclaimed coming of age tale in Northern England God’s Own Country and closing with the Bette Midler-starrer Freak Show, about a flamboyant teen finding his way in a conservative school, this year’s program looks to make good on its chosen tagline: “Our stories have power.”
Given the number of films being screened, there’s no shortage of fascinating Latino stories to be found. We’ve combed through Outfest 2017’s program and singled out 10 titles that should be on your radar. These include a Cuban film that’s been banned in its home country for its political message, a documentary about the legendary Chavela Vargas, and a Chicago-set interfaith romantic comedy featuring Mexican luchadoras.
Check out our list of the must-see Latino and Latin American movies below.
Outfest runs from July 6-16, 2017.
First-time filmmaker Marcelo Caetano gracefully weaves a warm, sensual tale that captures the charm of young working people and the beauty of the changing sexual landscape in Brazil. Carefree Elias works at a textile factory, juggling long shifts with animated nights out and no-strings sexual encounters. As he tries to discern where his future might lead him, Elias learns to take pleasure in the small things in life.
This stunning documentary captures the significance of Mexico’s most beloved lesbian Rancheras icon—Chavela Vargas—a rebellious, solitary and profoundly wounded trailblazer. An unforgettable journey through the enigmatic life of Chavela, this lyrical love letter interweaves never-before-seen interview footage and mesmerizing musical portraits of her most famous soul-gripping songs. From the spotlight of the stage, Chavela’s tortured vocals and unapologetic queer sensibility inspired a deeply patriarchal culture to love, to cry, and to feel, redefining entrenched gender traditions. You’ll never forget it.
A Cidade do Futuro
In a remote part of Brazil, the triad of Mila, Igor, and Gilmar are determined to break away and form their own nontraditional family, defying the definitions that society has attempted to impose on them. As they prepare for the birth of their child, the three contemplate their intertwining relationships. Cláudio Marques and Marília Hughes Guerreiro have boldly collaborated on a naturalistic film that shuns convention, instead embracing love in all its dazzling iterations.
Sueño en otro idioma
Martin arrives in a remote Mexican village to record a dying, ancient indigenous language. He finds the last two speakers of the language, but they refuse to speak to each other because of a 50 year grudge. Martin learns the surly Evaristo got into a fight with Isauro because they fell in love with the same woman. Now widowed, Evaristo continues to bitterly avoid the ailing Isauro. Martin and Evaristo’s granddaughter, Lluvia, work to convince the men to reconcile. Perplexed by their intensity when they meet, Martin realizes there is more to the story, and Lluvia finally reveals the secret behind the men’s entanglement. As Isauro’s health declines, Evaristo struggles to come to terms with his feelings, and strange bird calls from deep inside the jungle begin to stir, evoking the mythical origin of their ancestors. Distinctly enigmatic in tone, permeating the vibrations of the jungle’s enchantment through sound and cinematography, writer and director duo the Contreras brothers imaginatively use language and metaphor, and eternity over history to weave an unexpected and transcendental love story.
Santa & Andrés
Set in 1983, the second feature from Cuban writer-director Carlos Lechuga (Melaza) chronicles an encounter between Andrés, a novelist ostracized for his “ideological problems” and his sexuality, and Santa, a woman charged with keeping this ostensibly dangerous dissident from disrupting a political event and gaining the attention of the foreign press. Santa & Andrés is at once intimate and expansive, a chamber drama whose central action is a dialogue between two souls on either side of a profound cultural divide. Proximity inevitably prompts both the captive and warden to realize how much they have in common — and how completely the last six decades have affected the Cuban psyche.
Elia Schneider’s Tamara recounts the real life story of Tamara Adrian, Venezuela’s first transgender person elected to that country’s National Assembly. The film takes the biopic route and lets us witness Tamara’s former life as Tomas, an unhappily married middle-class man with two kids, all the way up to when she finally presents herself as a woman to the world. It’s not an easy transition, sadly. She’s heckled at the school where she teaches, shamed by police officers who relish stripping her of her clothes, and even scolded by her own wife. But she doesn’t waver, knowing that she’s living her truth. Starring Luis Fernandez as Tamara, this groundbreaking project is a powerful document of the transphobia that trans women and men deal with every day.
Etiqueta no rigurosa
Stylists Victor and Fernando made many Mexicali brides look beautiful on their wedding day, but when they decide to marry, the pair begin a complicated journey requiring them to navigate Baja California’s legal system and labyrinthine bureaucracies. Neither bomb threats nor accusations of mental illness stop these determined men from marrying in their hometown. This compelling and poignant documentary reminds us that the fight for global marriage equality is nowhere near over.
Ulysses has just begun experimenting with his sexuality and identity; his nights are full of stolen nylons and high heels. Stern Aunt Rose is having none of it, so Ulysses flees the Bronx, finding refuge at an unusual church in the West Village where voguing is more important than sermons populated by a welcoming group of queer and trans Latinxs. Luka Kain, enthralling as Ulysses, grounds the dream-like musical interludes running throughout the film. Salvation is found in a holy space that allows you to be yourself.
Fawzia Mirza plays Zaynab, a Pakistani Muslim lawyer who finds inspiration in Lucha Libre wrestling and romance with Alma (Sari Sanchez), the sassy, confident Mexican-American woman who’s winning her heart. Zaynab’s newfound passions challenge her soap-opera—loving mother’s expectations of finding her a husband. This multicultural film’s exploration of relationships, cultural exchanges, and the mother-daughter dynamic will enthrall.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Academy Award-nominated director David France’s (How to Survive a Plague) new documentary centers on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Mysteriously, Marsha was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. At the time, the NYPD pegged her death as a suicide, a claim that Marsha’s comrades have always firmly rejected. Structured as a whodunit, with activist Victoria Cruz cast as detective and audience surrogate, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson celebrates the lasting political legacy of Marsha P. Johnson, while seeking to finally solve the mystery of her unexplained death.