Every year the power of the Latino consumer grows more and more, and this in turn has forced Hollywood to open its doors (though very slowly) for actual Hispanic movies. Not just films that have a Latino in there somewhere, but films that have a genuine and legitimate story to tell. In 2014 we have films that have assembled immense Latino casts with Latino directors, that also highlight stories about our community and cultures. In celebration of this feat we give you the 5 Best Hispanic Films you need to watch in 2014!
Plot: Miguel (Michael Peña) is a hard-working father and devoted husband that crosses the border to find work. At the same time, a former Arizona Sheriff’s wife is killed on their Ranch property and Miguel is accused. His pregnant wife (Eva Longoria) rushes to his aid, but falls hostage to coyotes who hold her for ransom. Unsatisfied with the police investigation, the former sheriff begins his own research and uncovers disturbing evidence.
Why you need to see it: American director Michael Berry directs this story from his perspective, a non-Latino point of view. This means the film will either perpetuate the stereotype of the “illegal alien” – an outsider that takes valuable resources from Americans – or give audiences a refreshing view on the topic. Because Peña and Longoria are part of the film, I doubt that it will go down a stereotypical route, especially since Longoria is a devoted activist for immigration reform. Plus, don’t you want to see what kind of chemistry Peña and Longoria create on screen? Just picturing the two on screen should get people into the theaters.
4. “The Book of Life” – Jorge R. Gutierrez (October 17)
Plot: An action packed animated love tale set against the Mexican Day of the Dead backdrop and inspired by “Romeo and Juliet.”
Why you should see it: I’m a nut for animation and the Day of the Dead. The two combined is frankly a dream come true! Now add Mexican director and producer team Jorge R. Gutierrez and Guillermo del Toro, an international roster of A-list musicians, one of the more talented Latino voice casts ever assembled for an animated film (Kate del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez, Danny Trejo, Diego Luna, Hector Elizondo, Ana de la Reguera, Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, Plácido Domingo) and you’ve got a potential hit. I expect this film to be full of vibrant colors highlighted by spunky and danceable music. Not to mention that it should reach not only Latino, but international audiences because it is inspired by the Shakespearean love tale known all over the world. Also, did I mention that the gorgeous Channing Tatum is part of the cast?!
3. “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” (January 3)
Plot: A Latino spinoff of the “Paranormal Activity” horror movie franchise, this film tells the story of Jesse, a young man that lives in a Hispanic neighborhood in California. After investigating the death of the girl in the apartment below, he discovers a bite on his arm and becomes possessed by a demon.
Why you should see it: Because Latino horror has finally made it to the mainstream! “Paranormal Activity” has been a rather successful horror franchise and having a Latino spinoff speaks highly of our consumer power. This film has a full Latino cast, explores black magic rituals of the Latino culture and some critics have even said that it is a total crowd pleaser because it is not only scary, but fun.
2. “Hands of Stone” – Jonathan Jakubowicz
Plot: The film centers on the legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto ‘Manos de Piedra’ Duran and his equally legendary trainer Ray Arcel who change each other’s lives through boxing.
Why you should see it: The world over still remembers Roberto Duran because of his two fights with the very popular Sugar Ray Leonard back in the 80’s. ESPN 30/30 recently tackled the two fights without much insight, but Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz is more interested in a biopic of the Panamanian boxer and his relationship with his manager Ray Arcel. The English language film will count with Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez (Gael García Bernal dropped out) playing the lead role of Duran alongside the great Robert De Niro who will play Arcel. The Leonard fight debacle will be tackled in the script as R&B singer Usher will be playing Sugar Ray Leonard and has been training intensely to resemble the style of the American pugilist. There is no doubt that this is a Latino story, for Latino audiences, but it also has a mainstream reach because it is about the world sport of boxing, Duran’s relationship with his famed trainer, and a sport history phenomena he set off with Leonard.
1. “Cesar Chávez” – Diego Luna (March 28)
Plot: A biopic about the Mexican-American civil-rights activist and United Farm Workers co-founder, Cesar Chavez.
Why you should see it: Out of all the five films we chose, “Cesar Chavez” is the embodiment of the Hispanic film. This true Latino story about a Latino leader and hero, directed by Mexican actor and director Diego Luna possesses an impressive Latino cast which includes: Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez, America Ferrera as Helen Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta. The film shows Peña in a deserved lead role fighting to get fair wages to immigrant farm workers in California. Overall, expect to learn the importance of Chavez and the shrewd and sordid strategy wine owners tried to keep alive, nationally and internationally.
Honorable Mentions: The following didn’t make our Top 5, but are worthy of highlighting due to them having a Hispanic director, a lead Hispanic actor or Hispanic ensemble.
“Rosewater” – Jon Stewart
Plot: Gael García Bernal stars in “Rosewater” about a journalist who leaves his pregnant fiancée behind in London while he travels to Iran to spend a week covering the country’s presidential elections. Instead, he winds up spending 118 days in a notorious Iranian prison where he is brutally interrogated by a man whose defining characteristic is the smell of rosewater.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” – Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller (August 22)
Plot: The town’s most hard-edged citizens cross paths with some of its more repulsive residents.
“Rio 2” – Carlos Saldanha (April 11)
Plot: Blue and Jewel and now parents to three kids. As Blue tries to fit in the wilds of the Amazon, he goes head-to-head with revengeful Nigel, and meets his most challenging rival to date, his father-in-law.
“33 Dias” – Carlos Saura (Released in Spain)
Plot: The tale of Pablo Picasso’s emotionally distressful journey as he creates the “Guernica” and continues his relationship with French artists Dora Maar.