Latin American Movies On DVDs

Friday, April 22 by Marina Szaven

Stretch your Latin know-how beyond the best margarita in town, and sample a selection of the best Latin American Movies on DVD. Don’t be put off by the subtitles, and there’s plenty of surreal, steamy and sophisticated fare to show you how the other half of the continent lives.

  1. “Motorcycle Diaries”. Start your journey through the best of Latin American movies, with this delightful part travelogue/part buddy road trip across the South American continent in the early 1950’s. We meet the pre-revolutionary Che Guevara, as he discovers his political consciousness, while seeing the complexities of life, friendship, and the many varied cultures of South America.
  2. “City of God”. Spanning the 1960s through the 80s in crime-ridden Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this exquisite, violent and colorful drama combines the scope of an epic, with the very personal drama of friendship and love under the worst of conditions. A must-see for fans of “Godfather” and “Goodfellas” for a Latino version of the brutality, humanity and stark choices of the underworld, this award-winning picture personifies the best in Latin American cinema.
  3. “State of Siege”. Set in Uruguay in the 1970s, this political drama, though made in Europe, captures the brutal repercussions of many South American struggles between US influence, government officials and leftist guerillas. A more accessible portrait of these politics can also be found in director Costa-Gavras’ later film, “Missing” (1982).
  4. The Exterminating Angel”.  If you don’t know auteur Luis Bunuel, this strange, surreal black & white gem is a thought-provoking starting place for his work. The bourgeois members of a fashionable dinner party find themselves unable to leave the dining room, resulting in a mixture of horror, politics and humor. Though Bunuel began life as a Spaniard, he chose to die as a Mexican, and this film belongs in the best of Latin American movies.
  5. Y Tu Mamá También”. Now for a lighter, more modern and sensual look at the best of Latin American cinema, this vibrant tale of two young men on an unexpected adventure with an older woman, explores sexual mores and sprinkles in some political commentary, while staying rooted in the contradictory human nature at the heart of the story.
  6. "Erendira". Based on a short story by Columbia’s Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, this lush, dark fairy tale depicts a beautiful young girl forced into prostitution by her bitter grandmother. The harsh story elements are balanced with a light surreal touch, a sense of humor, sensual beauty, and even love.
  7. "Frida". The Latin woman’s point of view has a more fulfilling depiction in this beautifully realized biography of iconoclastic artist Frida Kahlo. The imaginative renderings of her artwork as frames for several of the movie scenes captures the vibrant unusualness of Kahlo’s work, while faithfully telling her many love affairs with painting, men, women, and revolutionaries. Salma Hayek has never been more beautiful or sensual in a role.
  8.  "Amores Perros". Is Love a bitch? Or is she just having a bad day? This captivating intersection of present day Mexicans, middle-class, homeless, and working poor could well have been the template for “Crash.” The original is a more satisfying glimpse into our modern disconnection and unexpected consequences, with a lot less white guilt in the mix.
  9. "Maria Full of Grace". Speaking of Anglo guilt, this small and true-to-life tale of a pregnant teen working as a drug mule to smuggle cocaine to the States captures the stark realities of the so-called War on Drugs with elegance beyond its low budget.
  10. "South of the Border". For a final take on Latin America, Oliver Stone’s fresh-eyed look at Venezuela’s controversial Hugo Chavez deepens our understanding of the region, beyond the clichés of the mainstream US media. Including interviews with other political leaders throughout the region (Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil), this documentary has the distinction of updating our impression of the other America.

-Marina Chavez

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