Film

10 Short Films Centered on the Afro-Latino Experience

Lead Photo: Photo by Lisette Poole
Photo by Lisette Poole

With protests across the country encouraging us all to commit to fighting anti-Blackness in ways both personal and systemic, there’s perhaps no better time to celebrate AfroLatinidad. Whether you want to watch a deep dive into the musical stylings of Afro-Latino legends like Joe Arroyo and Celia Cruz, want to watch a short inspired by the tragic death of Trayvon Martin (that in turn inspired Monsters and Men), or are eager to look into the experience of Black migrants in Mexico, the following selection of short films is here to broaden the notions of Afro-Latino identity.

Check them all out below.

Stop

Inspired by the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, African-American and Puerto Rican filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green was compelled to pick up his laptop and write his Sundance-selected short film Stop. “Stop was born out of these tragic events. It was made to address injustices within our communities and what we can do about them. I wanted to create a scenario where ‘it could’ve been you’ so that for just a moment we could all relate to what happens to this young man as he’s walking home from practice,” Green told Remezcla.

Life Between Borders: Black Migrants in Mexico

Directed by self-described Blaxican and California native Ebony Bailey, Life Between Borders uses the struggle of these particular people as a point of departure. The short film delves deep into the experience of black immigrants residing in Mexico and the experiences of their Mexican-born children to understand what the implications of this mass migration might mean for Mexican culture.

Heroes of Color: Episode 02

Animator David Heredia dedicated the second episode of his Heroes of Color web series to Yanga, a small town in the foothills of Mexico’s gulf coast, where the importation of slave labor drove the production of sugar cane throughout the colonial period. Named after Gaspar Yanga, a West African prince sold into slavery who led a community of cimarrones to freedom in the steamy mountains of Veracruz, Yanga was the first free African settlement in the Americas.

Ode to Pablo

The near-silent short, directed by lesbian Xicana  director Adelina Anthony, forces audiences to think about the kinds of assumptions we make about everyone we meet on a daily basis. As Pablo (Ian Vasquez) and one of the boys, who first taunted and teased him, strike up an unlikely rapport over Pablo’s headphones, Ode to Pablo quickly complicates their brief encounter. Ode to Pablo is a rare glimpse into the world of a queer, deaf Latino who’s learned to deal with bigoted preconceptions about who he is.

Reggaeton Revolución: Cuba in the Digital Era

The Cuban reggaeton scene has been given the music doc treatment. Directed by Cuban-American photographer Lisette Poole, the thumping short gives a brief history of the ever-growing genre on the island. Censored on television, radio and state-run recording studios for its risqué and oftentimes sexist lyrics and imagery, songs by reggaetoneros like Jacob Forever and El Yonki nevertheless thrive on the streets of Havana.

Ingrid Silva

Seeing everything through Ingrid Silva’s eyes, director Ben Briand transports us back to Rio’s slums where the young black ballerina grew up. We see her training incessantly. We feel the effort it takes for her to master her art. We see the support of her family, who are teary-eyed when she heads to snowy New York. We see her struggle while learning English and make pitiful tips while working as a waitress. But through it all, we see her resilience even if her background and her skin color set her apart from those around her.

On Our Land

The short documentary gives us an on-the-ground look at how this plays out in communities like Trujillo and Limón, where some of the country’s nearly 150,000 Garífuna speakers are concentrated. Through a series of interviews with community members, local politicians, and members of the Garífuna diaspora in the United States, the documentary explores urgent challenges of linguistic survival, institutional representation, and that are affecting the Garífuna.

Footprints: Episode 01

Highlighting black Latin American and Latinx musical icons, the first episode of TIDAL’s animated web series, Footprints is narrated Amara La Negra. Over the course of seven minutes, the Dominican artist briefly walks us through the careers of three of the most prominent Afro-Latino performers in music history: Joe Arroyo, Celia Cruz and Pete Rodríguez.

The Nu LatAm Sound: Ecuador Episode 2

In the second episode of The Nu LatAm Sound, ZZK picks things up on the northern coast, turning his attention to Esmeraldas, a city rooted in African culture. Several musicians illuminate the region’s rich history and collection of musical influences: Papá Roncón, a famed marimba player and guardian of Esmereldas’ past, recounts how African slaves brought over by the Spanish introduced the marimba to Esmeraldas natives. The Cayapa people adopted the instrument and shaped the way it would be played in the region.

Yemanjá

Narrated by Alice Walker, Donna Roberts’ film is an exploration of Candomblé practice in Brazil from its origins as a secret slave religion to its present as both a strong faith community and a receptacle of ancient wisdom. Along the way, Roberts gives special attention to Candomblé’s reverence for the environment, its use of often neglected medicinal plants, and its harmonious integration of the spiritual and natural worlds.