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Afro-Latinos, animated films, assimilation, border guards, California, Chicana/o identity, Chicana/o nationalism, Ciudad Juárez, Cuba, Cuban-Americans, domestic workers, Dominicans, drug trafficking, economic dependency, feminism, films by non-Latina/o directors, generation gap, globalization, history/ historiography, immigration, indigeneity, interracial relationships, labor issues, Latina characters, Latina filmmakers, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o film directors, Latinas/os as gang members, Latina/o literature, Latina/o stereotypes, Los Angeles, machismo, mainstream cinema, maquiladoras, masculinity, maternity, Miami, migrant workers, migration, music, nativism, New York, Nuyoricans, Puerto Ricans, queer Latina/o cinema, racism, sexuality, U.S.-Mexico border (Ciudad Juárez-El Paso), U.S. (Texas)-Mexico border, U.S.-Mexico border (San Diego-Tijuana border), young adult films.


Almost a Woman. Dir. Betty Kaplan. PBS Home Video, 2002
Call number: Sonya Haynes Black Cultural Center (personal collection of Dr. Joseph Jordan)
Filming locations: Puerto Rico; New York, NY.
Duration: 95 mins.
Summary: The film adaptation to Esmeralda Santiago’s memoir of the same title, the film follows a young girl, Negi, from rural Puerto Rico to New York City and relates the linguistic, social, and economic barriers she faces.  Negi’s mother decides to leave her husband for New York primarily so that her son’s foot can be saved (her husband has also been having an affair).  In New York, Negi and her family live with relatives and must confront new cultural dynamics that often gloss over their Puerto Rican identity for a Hispanic one.  This is excellent film for dealing with issues of language, identity, and education.

Keywords: immigration, New York, Puerto Ricans.


Bacurau. Dir. Kleber Mondonça Filho, Julinao Dornelles. Vitrine Filmes (Brazil), 2019.
Call number: N/A. Streaming available via Hulu, Amazon Prime, and
Filming locations: Barra, Parelhas, Brazil; Sertāo do Seridó, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.
Duration: 142 Minutes
Summary: After the death of the community matriarch, the fictional town of Bacurau begins to witness a series of strange occurrences that unnerve daily life. For months, the water supply has been stopped and without warning the town disappears from internet maps and GPS, phone service vanishes, and a villager is followed by an unidentified drone resembling a vintage Hollywood spaceship. With a psychedelic tint, Bacurau potently explores the lasting and ongoing legacies of colonialism, resource privatization, corrupt political processes, and American imperialism

 Keywords: North American tourism in Latin America; mainstream cinema; colonialism.


La Bamba. Dir. Luis Valdez. Columbia Pictures, 1987.
Call number: 65-V1661 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Fillmore, CA; Hollister, CA; Imperial County, CA; San Jose, CA; Los Angeles, CA; San Fernando, CA.
Duration: 103 mins.
Summary: Film critics consider La Bamba to be one of the first Latina/o films to enter mainstream U.S. popular culture and the film recounts the life of Richie Valens (originally Richard Steven Valenzuela) from his rise to stardom to his tragic death at the age of 17 in a plane crash in 1959.  Chiefly a biopic, the film’s subplots include Valens’ tense relationship with his brother, Bob, and his dating an Anglo American girl, Donna Ludwig.  La Bamba’s mainstream status could allow for a discussion of how Luis Valdez’s work has evolved from a radical and overt political overtone exemplified in I am Joaquin to the more subtle political overtones as one can see here.

Keywords: mainstream cinema, Los Angeles, Latina/o music.


Being the Ricardos. Dir. Aaron Sorkin, Amazon Studios, 2021.
Call number: Not applicable
Filming location: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 101 mins.
Summary: Written and directed by screenwriting legend Aaron Sorkin, Being the Ricardos captures the tumultuous offscreen lives of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), the couple behind the smash-hit I Love Lucy. While the film represents one of Sorkin’s many recent solid-but-not-incredible films, it’s still an interesting chronicle of the early days of what we might call Latinx television. The film may be especially interesting for its representations of Cuban-American identity and Communism, as the film revolves around Arnaz’s and Ball’s attempts to suppress Joseph McCarthy’s investigation of Ball for Communist sympathies.

Keywords: Assimilation, Cuba, Cuban-Americans, feminism, films by non-Latina/o directors, history, immigration, interracial relationships, Latina/o stereotypes, mainstream cinema


Blackboard Jungle. Dir. Richard Brooks. MGM, 1955.
Call number: 65-DVD2416 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming location: El Segundo, CA.
Duration: 101 mins.
Summary: Critics often credit Blackboard Jungle, particularly its soundtrack, with helping to establish rock and roll as a popular music genre.  Moreover, the film would establish a common film motif in which a teacher must appeal to jaded youth in order to inspire them to learn.  In the case of Blackboard Jungle, Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) comes to a school set in an urban environment.  Dadier must confront a number of unruly male students, some of whom are Latino and belong to gangs.  One gang member, Morales, plays a prominent role in the film, especially in its last section.

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes, Latinas/os as gang members, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


The Book of Life. Dir. Jorge R. Gutierrez, 20th Century Fox, 2014.
Call number: 65-DVD18772 (MDC)
Runtime: 95 minutes.
Summary: This Golden Globe-nominated animated film tells a story inspired by central Mexican folklore. As Manolo Sánchez (Diego Luna) and Joaquín Mondragon (Channing Tatum) compete for the love of María Posada (Zoe Saldana) in the land of the living, their competition becomes the focal point of a wager between two beings from the land of the dead: La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), the ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten. Amidst the twists and turns of the competition, Manolo becomes trapped in the afterlife and, with the help of deceased loved ones and supernatural beings, seeks to return to the land of the living. Amidst the many pieces of media surrounding Día de los Muertos, The Book of Life stands out for its talented ensemble cast, its fluid incorporation of folk spirituality and indigenous religion (especially in the figures of Xibalba and La Muerte), and its beautiful animation style, which is styled after painted wood toys and puppets.

Keywords: animated films, history/historiography, indigeneity, music, young adult films.


The Border. Dir. Tony Richardson. MCA Videocassette, 1982.
Call number: 65-V288 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Antigua, Guatemala; Guatemala City, Guatemala; El Paso, TX.
Duration: 107 mins.
Summary: Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel star as border guards stationed in El Paso, Texas.  Keitel’s character, Cat, enters into a corrupt moneymaking scheme illegally transporting Mexicans across the U.S.-Mexican border.  Nicholson’s character, Charlie Smith, reluctantly helps Cat, but soon realizes his errors while falling in love with a Mexican woman who he had previously deported.  Good border guard is pitted against bad border guard as Charlie confronts Cat about his illicit business dealings.

Keywords: U.S.-Mexican border (Ciudad Juarez-El Paso), border guards, mainstream cinema.


Bordertown. Dir. Gregory Nava. Thinkfilm, 2008.
Call number: 65-DVD5331 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Albuquerque, NM; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Sonora, México.
Duration: 114 mins.
Summary: Inspired by the Ciudad Juarez ‘femicide,’ this melodrama features star power of the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Charlie Sheen, and Antonio Banderas.  As Lauren Adrian, an ambitious journalist, Lopez’s character arrives at Ciudad Juárez to investigate the murders of maquiladora workers and soon finds herself a target.  While the film often embraces mawkishness, Lopez has used the film through various speaking events with Amnesty International to raise awareness of the femicide.

Keywords: Ciudad Juárez, maquiladoras, globalization, U.S.-Mexico border.


Bread and Roses. Dir. Ken Loach. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2001.
Call number: 65-DVD2408 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 110 mins.
Summary: Ken Loach trains his social realist and naturalistic filmmaking style to relate how immigrant (primarily Latina/o) and African American custodians organize a union for better working conditions from the private contractor which employs them.  Maya (Pilar Padilla) arrives from Mexico with the help of coyotes, from which she must escape after being kidnapped.  After doing so, Maya lands a job as a house cleaner through the help of her sister, Rosa.  With the help of labor organizers including “Sam” (Adrien Brody), the workers organize for empowerment, but must contend with tensions that their bosses exploit to prevent the union’s establishment.

Keywords: Latina characters, Los Angeles, domestic workers, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Camille. Dir. George Cukor. Warner Home Video, 1921.
Call number: 65-DVD2583 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Culver City, CA.
Duration: 70 mins.
Summary: This 1921 silent film is an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Lady of Camellias and features Rudolf Valentino as Armand, a dashing suitor who courts Marguerite Gautier only to have his love constantly rejected or thwarted. While the film has little to do with Latinas/os per se, various film scholars of Latina/o film consider Valentino as the predecessor of the Latino lover stereotype that appeared in early Hollywood films and continues to exist.  Other films with Rudolf Valentino in the Media Resource Center collection include Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and Cobra. Note: the silent version of Camille is contained as an extra on the DVD of the 1936 talkie remake starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor.

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes, masculinity, mainstream cinema.


Chicago Boricua. Dir. Marisol Torres.
Call number: Sonja Haynes Black Cultural Center (personal collection of Dr. Joseph Jordan)
Filming locations: Chicago, IL
Duration: 107 mins.
Summary: Set in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, Chicago Boricua relates three interwoven stories that revolve around Puerto Rican characters.  Lola is a serious student whose intermittent romance with Willy, a neighborhood drug dealer, allows for an exploration of gender roles, masculinity, and violence; Germán is hired at a cut throat corporation that specializes in property acquisitions, and quickly “sells out” his community; Tata aspires to be crowned Miss Puerto Rico at the city’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, but must wrestle with notions of identity and authenticity in order to participate in the pageant (Tata’s mother is Anglo American).  While the film at times suffers from pop culture clichés, the film manages to be compelling and impressive as the director’s first film.

Keywords: Afro-Latinas/os, drug trafficking, feminism, Latina characters, Latina filmmakers, machismo, mainstream cinema, masculinity, Puerto Ricans, queer Latina/o cinema, sexuality.


Día sin mexicanos (Day without a Mexican). Dir. Sergio Arau. Xenon Pcitures, 2004.
Call number: 65-DVD2037 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: San Diego, CA.
Duration: 95 mins.
Summary: Based on the 1998 mockumentary by Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi, this film contemplates the ramifications if all Latinas/os were to disappear from California.  The film possesses a science-fiction veneer and satirical overtones while different subplots unfold.  The economic sector and families alike deteriorate as most Californians (the film does not stray from broaching nativism) sorely miss Latinas/os, including US border guards.  While the feature length film weighs in on a number of issues such as Latina/o stereotypes, the original short film does much of the same and appears on the DVD as an extra.  Instructors may consider screening the short in lieu of the feature length film since the short lasts 28 minutes.

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes, California, US-Mexico border (San Diego-Tijuana), economic dependency, nativism.


The Earth Did not Swallow Earth. Dir. Severo Pérez, Kino, 1995.
Call number: ISA Film Collection (DVD)
Filming locations: Arizona; Minnesota.
Duration: 99 mins.
An adaptation of Tomás Rivera ‘s novel Y no se lo tragó la tierra, Severo Pérez’s film centers on the perspective and experiences of a young boy in a migrant workers’ community in South Texas during the early 1950s.  The boy, Marco, observes the community’s many personalities and tragedies, while his mother and father memorialize their oldest son as they desperately await news about his fate as a soldier in the Korean War.  Community members travel from state to state picking crops and contend with racial discrimination and poor living conditions.

Keywords: migrant workers, racism, non-Latina/o films, Latina/o literature.


Flamin’ Hot. Dir. Eva Longoria. Searchlight Pictures, Franklin Entertainment. 2023.

Runtime: 99 minutes.

Access: Hulu and Disney+.

Summary: This film is an intriguing—and eminently unpackable—entry into the recent genre of corporate biopics, which includes such films as The Founder, Air, and Tetris. This time, the commercial product is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and its disputed inventor, Frito-Lay janitor-turned-executive Richard Montañez. The film, directed by actress and entertainment personality Eva Longoria, foregrounds the entwinement of Montañez’s Mexican cultural background in the creation of the snack; of particular note is a scene in which Montañez watches his young son enjoy elote despite its intense spiciness, evidently giving him the idea for the Flamin’ Hot flavor. Montañez’s story, as the film frames it, is one of Latinx culture forming and innovating U.S. society (to the blessed benefit of Frito-Lay, a multinational corporation famed for its labor abuses). Complicating the film even further, of course, is its metanarrative: Montañez’s story is disputed by various Frito-Lay employees, and the various defenses the filmmakers mount of their own effort is telling of truth’s place in their endeavor. Silly as the film is in many respects, it is valuable in documenting—indirectly—how truth-telling, cultural mixture, and capitalism inform one vein of Latinx storytelling.

Keywords: California, Chicano identity, corporations, food, labor, neoliberalism, Mexican Americans, Mexican culture


Flying Down to Rio. Dir. Thorton Freeland. RKO Radio Pictures, 1933.
Call number: 65-V663 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Miami, FL; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Duration: 89 mins.
Summary: While it may be a stretch to classify Flying Down to Rio as a Latina/o film, some critics (most notably Charles Ramírez Berg) consider the film’s depiction of its Brazilian protagonist as a predecessor to the oversexualized Latina stereotype.  The film begins at a resort hotel in Miami, where U.S. Anglo women resent the presence of Belinha, a rich white Brazilian woman.  As men swoon over Belinha, the Anglo women ask, “‘What do these South Americans have below the equator that we don’t?’”

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes, mainstream cinema.


Fort Apache. Dir. John Ford. Argosy Pictures, 1948.
Call number: 65-V26 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Moab, UT; Mexican Hat, UT; Monument Valley, UT; Kanab, UT; Simi Valley, CA; Culver City, CA.
Duration: 125 mins.
Summary: A 1948 film starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Shirley Temple, Fort Apache was considered one of the first films to sympathetically depict Native Americans, in this case Apaches.  Fort Apache, along with several other Westerns by John Ford, are noted for their depictions of Latinas/os, often times negative.  In the case of Fort Apache, one sees a Mexican American woman working as a servant.  And yet, in probably the most intriguing scene of the film from a point of view of Latina/o studies, Sergeant Beaufort (Pedro Armendariz) accompanies Capt. York to negotiate with the Apaches.  Sergeant Beaufort, obviously of Mexican roots in the film, acts a Spanish-English interpreter between John Wayne and the Apaches, who communicate in Spanish with the U.S. Army.

Keywords: Indigeneity, Latina/o stereotypes, mainstream cinema, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Giant. Dir. George Stevens. Giant Productions, 1956.
Call number: 65-V787 (2 cassettes; Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Marfa, TX; Jeff Davis County, TX; Valentine, TX; Presidio County, TX; San Bernardino National Forest, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Charlottesville, VA.
Duration: 210 mins.
Summary: Praised by critics of Latina/o cinema for its strident and precocious condemnation of racism against Mexican Americans, Giant depicts the trials and travails of the Benedict family.  At the start of the film, the Benedicts have made their fortune ranching.  The prized son, Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson), marries a more refined and liberal Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), who grows concerned with the poor living conditions in which the Mexican American workers on the Benedict ranch reside.  Bick eventually sells his land to a former farmhand, Jett Rink, who becomes a billionaire through oil.  Rink’s discrimination against the Mexican American wife of Bick’s son (a young Dennis Hopper) propels the film to its climax.

Keywords: racism, mainstream cinema, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Gotta Kick it Up. Dir. Ramón Menéndez, Buena Vista Television, 2002.
Call number: N/A
Runtime: 78 minutes.
Summary: A made-for-television film by the director of Stand and Deliver, this Disney Channel Original Movie is an excellent addition to any project studying Latinx children’s films. The story follows two Latina middles schoolers (America Ferrera and Camille Guaty) as they lead their dance team to success with Latinx- and Latin American-inspired choreography. Along the way, they clash with their teacher and coach (Susan Egan), a Julliard-trained classical dancer, and eventually compete in a regional competition.

Keywords: assimilation, feminism, generation gap, globalization, Latin characters, music, young adult films.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dir. Alfonso Cuarón. Warner Brothers Pictures, 2004.
Call number: 65-DVD1945 c.2 (Media Resources Center)
Filming locations: Glen Coe, Scotland; Hertfordshire, England; London, England.
Duration: 142 Minutes
Summary: The third installment of the Harry Potter saga, The Prisoner of Azkaban brings a darker, gothic mood to the beloved fantasy franchise. The film chronicles Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s third year for at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as they are informed that renown criminal Sirius Black has escaped from prison and is intent on killing Harry. Directed by Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá Tambien; Amores Perros), this film is included in Latina/o Studies Archive for its use of Mexican and Latin American aesthetics in the construction of a “Magic” world. Interested viewers are referred to “An interview in Spanish with Alfonso Cuarón” included in the Harry Potter Bonus DVD (ISBN: 9781419857812; ISBN 1419857819).

Keywords: Mainstream movies, Fantasy; Aesthetics; non-Latina/o films by Latina/o directors; transculturation.


The Holy Mountain. Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky. ABKCO Films, 1973.
Call number: 65-DVD4079 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México; Mexico City, Distrito Federal, México.
Duration: 115 Minutes
Summary: Based on the writings of St. John of the Cross and René Daumal’s surrealist classic Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures, The Holy Mountain follows the metaphysical, messianic journeys of “The Thief” (representing The Fool of the tarot) as he is led by a powerful alchemist to the mythic Lotus Island with the hopes of attaining immortality. Meticulously choreographed and steeped in Latin American folklore and psychedelia, the film has become a staple of avant-garde cinema and remains one of the most important features of the trans-national post-’68 era.

Keywords: Christianity; psychedelia; counterculture; myth; mysticism; aesthetics; transculturation.


I am Joaquin. Dir. Luis Valdez. 1969.
Call number: ISA Film Collection (VHS)
Filming location:
Duration: 20 mins.
Summary: Based on Corky Gonzalez’s epic poem of the same name, I am Joaquin is foundational to Chicana/o cinema and an expression of Chicana/o nationalism.  The short film represents a transition in the production of Luis Valdez from El Teatro Campesino to another medium.  The film is composed of a voice-over reciting verses from Gonzalez’s poem and film stills to create a Chicana/o lineage traced back to the Aztecs to what was then the present day (1969).  I am Joaquin has been criticized for its machismo and omission of Chicana identities; the short film Chicana by Sylvia Morales (see above) was intended as a corrective.

Keywords: Chicana/o identity, historiography, machismo.


Knives Out. Dir. Rian Johnson, Lionsgate and MRC, 2019.
Call number: 65-DVD25117 (Media Resource Center)
Filming location: Boston, Massachusetts.
Runtime: 130 minutes.
Summary: A modern twist on the whodunit murder mystery genre, Knives Out’s politics are a clear commentary on the white response to U.S. right wing nationalism from a Latina perspective. Although the film ostensibly stars an ensemble cast, the main character is Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), a home health nurse and the American daughter of an undocumented Latin American immigrant who has (apparently) accidentally murdered her employer, wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). As Marta attempts to hide her involvement in Thrombey’s death from detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), she becomes entangled in the politics of the wealthy Thrombey family—and becomes their target when it emerges that Harlan left his entire estate to Marta. Although Latina/o issues occupy the background of the film, it nonetheless emerges as a critique not just of the white nationalists who are openly hostile to Marta but also of the wealthy white liberals who, despite their sanguine appearances, sit in comfortable superiority over immigrant laborers. Also of note is the ambiguity of Marta’s familial origin and the presence of disability/illness in the film: instrumental to the plot is that Marta becomes violently ill whenever she attempts to tell a lie.

Keywords: Domestic workers, films by non-Latina/o directors, immigration, labor issues, Latina characters, mainstream cinema, nativism, racism


Ladrón que Roba a Ladrón. Dir. Joe Menendez, Lionsgate, 2007.
Call number: Not available at UNC Libraries.
Filming location: Unknown
Runtime: 98 minutes.
Summary: Though received in the English-language press as a Spanish version of Ocean’s Eleven, Ladrón que Roba a Ladrón both stands on its own as a heist comedy and refigures the genre with themes of transnational identity and anti-corporate justice. In the film, Colombian con man Emilio (Miguel Varoni) plans to rob fraudster and millionaire snake oil salesman Moctesuma Valdez (Saúl Lisazo), who made his fortune exploiting Latina/o immigrants in Los Angeles. However, lacking allies able to help him, Emilio and his partner (Fernando Colunga) recruit a group of amateur thieves whose power is that, as immigrant laborers, they will go unnoticed by their rich L.A. marks. The film is the first of three (so far) Spanish-language films by American director Joe Menendez and is a rich opportunity to consider themes such as anti-neoliberalism, medical fraud (especially in the age of COVID-19), and the intersection of heroism and criminality in the figure of the Latina/o/x immigrant.

Keywords: California, Cuban-Americans, domestic workers, globalization, immigration, labor issues, Latina characters, Latinas/os as gang members, Latina/o stereotypes, Los Angeles, migrant workers


Lone Star. Dir. John Sayles. Columbia Pictures, 1996.
Call number: 65-DVD1155 (MRC)
Filming locations: Del Rio, TX; Eagle Pass, TX; Laredo, TX.
Duration: 135 mins.
Summary: John Sayles’s film deftly broaches the subtleties of interlocking histories and memory between Anglo, Latina/o, and African American residents of a small town in Texas called Frontera.  Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) investigates the murder of a former sheriff, Charley Wade (Kris Kristofferson), who embodies racism.  In his investigations, Sam uncovers unforeseen truths that link the town residents and, in the film’s own detective work, we learn of the hidden connections between characters despite racial barriers of the past and present.

Keywords: historiography, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Manito. Dir. Eric Eason. Film Movement, 2003.
Call number: 65-DVD1605
Filming Location: New York, New York.
Duration: 70 mins.
Summary: Winner of a Special Jury Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, Manito opens a 48-hour window into the lives of a Dominican family in Washington Heights.  Manny (“Manito”), the title character will graduate and is to become the first member of his family to attend college.  Manny is supported by a range of family members including his brother, Junior, his grandfather, and a host of friends (Manny’s father figures into the picture, but remains a scourge to the family, while his mother died when he was younger).  Manny and his family’s aspirations for him are derailed following a graduation party, one event that seems incredulously accompanied by numerous tragedies.  Director Eric Eason uses mainly non-trained actors in this hyper-masculine and at times frustrating film.

Keywords: Dominicans, Afro-Latinos, New York, masculinity, machismo, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Manos Sucias. Dir. Josef Wladyka, 2014.
Call number: Not applicable.
Filming Location: Bonaventura, Colombia.
Runtime: 84 minutes.
Summary: Although it’s a touch uneven on the assembly side, Manos sucias offers a compelling portrait of Colombian narcotrafficking through the eyes of Afro-Colombian drug runners. The film intersperses exciting actions with plenty of introspection, the latter of which draws on the rich texture of the Afro-Colombian neighborhood from which the main characters, two brothers, hail. Although it doesn’t offer a radically new portrait on the grisly and heartbreaking realities of the drug trade, it nonetheless offers insight into the wide variety of people whom it entangles.

Keywords: Afro-Latinos, drug trfficking, Latinas/os as gang members, masculinity


Maria Full of Grace. Dir. Joshua Marston. HBO Films, 2004.
Call number: 65-DVD1985
Filming locations: Amaguaña, Ecuador; Mariscal Airport (Sucre, Ecuador); Bogotá, Colombia; New York, NY; Jersey City, New Jersey.
Duration: 101 mins.
Summary: In this joint U.S.-Colombian production, María, a Colombian teenager, works in an industrial flower plantation and soon quits her job upon learning she is pregnant.  Desperate for money, María becomes a drug mule and, in an example of the film’s salient religious motifs, swallows and carries pellets of cocaine in her stomach from Colombia to the U.S.  Upon arriving to the U.S., María is held captive by the drug cartel and then escapes, turning to the Colombian community in New York City for help.

Keywords: immigration (Colombia-U.S.), drug trafficking, globalization.


El Mariachi. Dir. Robert Rodriguez. Columbia Pictures, 1991.
Call number: ISA Film Collection
Filming locations: Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico.
Duration: 81 mins.
Summary: Heralded as a low-budget wonder, Robert Rodriguez’s first feature-length film impressed Hollywood producers, among others, and enabled him to direct numerous high-budget movies.  In fact, El Mariachi composes the first part of Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy (Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico are the other two installments, both of which are in English and enjoyed high-budgets).  Rodriguez uses an amateur cast and relates the story of El Mariachi, an aspiring mariachi guitarist who becomes embroiled in the local drug trafficking underworld when he kills four men in self-defense.  The plot thickens when El Mariachi seeks refuge in a local bar and falls in love with its owner, Domino, who is also the lover of the local drug kingpin.  El Mariachi escapes, but suffers tragedy, thus setting the stage for sequels.

Keywords: drug trafficking, music.


Milagro Beanfield War. Dir. Robert Redford. MCA Home Video, 1988.
Call number: 65-V1956 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Espanola, NM; Santa Fe, NM; Truchas, NM; Truchas, NM.
Duration: 118 mins.
Summary: An adaptation of the novel of the same name, Milagro Beanfield War relates the conflict that emerges in a rural community in New Mexico (“Milagro Valley”) between a powerful real estate tycoon and a town resident, José, who diverts a water source in order to plant and cultivate beans.  Despite some reluctance by the community members of Milagro Valley to support José’s efforts, the character’s beanfield galvanizes the community to take a stand against the development of a resort that threatens their livelihood.

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes, mainstream film, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life). Dir. Allison Anders. HBO Home Video, 1994.
Call number: 65-DVD3354 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 96 mins.
Summary: Praised for its willingness to focus on Chicana gang members and harshly criticized for its indulgence in stereotypes (see Rosa Linda Fregoso’s “Hanging Out With the Homegirls? Allison Anders’s ‘Mi Vida Loca’”:, Mi Vida Loca depicts Chicana/o gangs during the late 1980s in Echo Park, CA.  The narrative is divided into three interlocking stories about individuals within the same gang.  Mousie and Sad Girl, two Chicana gang members, are impregnated by the same boy, Ernesto, thus straining their friendship.  After Ernesto’s death, Mousie and Sad Girl must navigate the tensions of their friendship.  Whisper ascends to the rank of a big time drug dealer when she fills the vacuum left by the death of a male dealer.

Keywords: Latina characters, Latina/o stereotypes, Chicanas/os, violence.


My Darling Clementine. Dir. John Ford. Twentieth Century-Fox Films, 1946.
Call number: 65-DVD5419 (Media Resource Center) or 65-V1592 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Monument Valley, AZ; Monument Valley, UT; Moab, UT; Kayenta, AZ; Devil’s Tower, WY.
Duration: 96 mins.
Summary: Based upon the story of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, My Darling Clementine is a typically brilliant Western by John Ford.  Its significance to Latina/o studies rests on the stereotype of Latinas as harlots.  Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) is Doc Holliday’s love interest and appears less than faithful to him at times.

Keywords: Latina/o stereotypes.


Nelly’s Bodega. Dir. Omonike Akinyemi. Image Quilt Productions, 2000.
Call number: Sonja Haynes Black Cultural Center (personal collection of Dr. Joseph Jordan)
Filming locations: New York, NY
Duration: 58 mins.
Summary: Nelly and her husband, Rafa, own a small grocery store in New York.  While they both harbor aspirations for their business and marriage, Rafa’s physical and emotional abuse of Nelly nixes such plans.  Running parallel to Nelly’s story, Fatima, a young African American girl, seeks advice from Nelly as to how to deal with her first crush.  While Nelly’s store becomes a safe haven for Fatima, it becomes a site of suffering for Nelly as she searches for resolutions to her dilemma including appealing to Oshun, a Cuban santería goddess.

Keywords: Afro-Latinas/os, Cuban-Americans, Latina characters, machismo, masculinity, New York.


El Norte. Dir. Gregory Nava. American Playhouse, 1983.
Call number: ISA Film Collection (DVD)
Filming locations: Chiapas, Mexico; Morelos, Mexico; Mexico City, Mexico; Tijuana, Mexico; San Diego, CA; Los Angeles, CA;
Duration: 139 mins.
Summary: A classic of Latina/o and Latin American cinema, El Norte relates the story of Rosa and Enrique, a brother and sister, and their journey from Guatemala to Los Angeles.  Rosa and Enrique are Mayans fleeing from their village following the killing of their father by the military. The brother and sister’s indigeneity figures prominently in the content and structure of the film, and illustrates differences that can exist among Latina/o immigrants, especially since Latina/o immigrant narratives about journeys usually concern Mexicans coming to the U.S.   Rosa and Enrique deal with issues of assimilation, language barrier, identity, and tragedy.

Keywords: migration, indigeneity, assimilation.


Nueba Yol. Dir. Angel Muñiz. Venevision International, 1995.
Call number: 65-DVD6051 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; New York, NY.
Duration: 106 mins.
Summary: Nueba Yol depicts the adventures of Balbuena, a good-hearted Dominican who decides to move to New York following the death of his wife, Natalia.  Balbuena pays his friend Fellito for help in making the trip and, upon arrival, Balbuena suffers the expected culture shock while living with a Dominican uncle whose children have become thoroughly Americanized.  Balbuena nevertheless finds works, falls in love, and survives a brush with death while in the Big Apple.

Keywords: Dominicans, assimilation, labor, migration.


Piñero. Dir. Leon Ichaso. Miramax Home Entertainment, 2001.
Call number: 65-V8421 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: New York, NY; Puerto Rico.
Duration: 103 mins.
Summary:  Benjamin Bratt stars in this biopic about Nuyorican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero.  The film attempts to capture numerous facets of Piñero’s life: his strained relationship with his father, prostitution as a teenager, a celebrity status following the release of his play Short Eyes, prison terms, the founding of the Nuyorican Poets Café, his bisexuality, reckless drug use, and frigid reception by Puerto Rican intellectuals when he returns to the island.  Critics understandably praised Bratt’s performance and the actor performs several of Piñero’s poems.

Keywords: Nuyoricans, masculinity, sexuality, Latina/o literature.


Raising Victor Vargas. Dir. Peter Sollet. Samuel Goldwyn, 2002.
Call number: Sonya Haynes Black Cultural Center (personal collection of Dr. Joseph Jordan)
Filming locations: Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, New York
Duration: 88 mins.
Summary: Victor Vargas is set in a Dominican/Dominican-American community in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York.  Victor is a teenager and fashions himself the ultimate ladies man, or a “papi chulo” (Victor’s term).  Victor jeopardizes his image after the neighborhood learns of his rendezvous with Fat Donna, and he seeks to redeem himself by winning over Judy, a young woman who hardly falls for his gambits.  The relationships between Victor, his brother, sister, and grandmother provide another compelling dynamic to this endearing film.

Keywords: Afro-Latinas/os, Dominicans, machismo, New York.


Real Women Have Curves. Dir. Patricia Cardoso. HBO Independent Productions, 2002.
Call number: 65-DVD3738 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY.
Duration: 86 mins.
Summary: Based on a play of the same name by Josefina López, America Ferrera plays Ana Garcia, a young Latina living in East Los Angeles.  Ana attends Beverly Hills High School, where she excels academically, and also works at her sister’s struggling garment factory.  At the prodding of her high school teacher, Ana aspires to go to Columbia University, but her plans, as well as her feminist views, are at loggerheads with her mother’s expectations.  Real Women Have Curves broaches a number of issues including feminism, generational tensions, interracial dating, class, labor exploitation, and female body image.

Key words: Latina filmmakers, Los Angeles, feminism, interracial relationships, generation gap, labor issues.


Redes. Dir. Fred Zinneman, Emilio Gómez Muriel. Criterion Collection, 1937.
Call number: N/A; streaming available through the Criterion Chanel
Filming locations: Veracruz, México
Duration: 65 Minutes
Summary: With stunning cinematography by the North American photographer Paul Strand, Redes tells the story about a small fishing community on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Employing a cast of non-professional actors, meticulous framing, and intelligent sequencing, the film explores the precarity of labor and the rise of political consciousness amongst agricultural workers, employing narrative techniques that anticipate more well-known neo-realist films (such as that of the Italian’s Federico Fellini or Roberto Rossellini).

Keywords: Transnationalism; Latin America; Photography and Fine Art; politics.


Salt of the Earth. Dir. Herbert Biberman. Voyager Press, 1954.
Call number: 65-V1086 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Bayard, NM; Grant County, NM; Silver City, NM; Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 94 mins.
Summary: Lauded for its portrayal of strong Latina characters, Salt of the Earth relates the story of how Mexican American miners and their wives join struggle to form a labor union against the pressures of the Empire Zinc Company.  After the male miners are arrested and attacked, their wives form a picket line and contend with the intimidation from the police and the outrage from their husbands.  The film was inspired by actual events, blacklisted, and was done in a neorealist style using a number of untrained actors and actresses.

Keywords: Latina characters, labor issues, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors.


Scarface. Dir. Brian De Palma. Universal Pictures, 1983.
Call number: 65-DVD474 (MRC)
Filming locations: Miami, FL; Los Angeles, CA; Montecito, CA; New York, NY.
Duration: 170 mins.
Summary: A remake of the 1932 classic, Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee arriving to Miami with the Mariel Boatlift in 1980.  The film shows the ascent of Montana from refugee and low-wage worker to Miami’s top drug kingpin and his subsequent fall.  Montana navigates the drug trafficking underworld in both the Americas with extreme ruthlessness and violence, while trying to maintain a marriage with Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, Elvira Hancock.  Among other themes, the film allows for a discussion of representations of Cuban and Cuban-Americans, Miami, drug trafficking, and cinematic violence.

Keywords: Cuba, Cuban-Americans, Miami, drug trafficking.


Selena. Dir. Gregory Nava. Esparza/Katz Productions, 1997.
Call number: ISA Film Collection (DVD)
Filming locations: Corpus Christi, TX; Houston, TX; Lake Jackson, TX; Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico; San Antonio, TX.
Duration: 127 mins.
Summary: Selena is a thoroughly mainstream biographical film about the life and career Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Tejana pop star who suffered a premature death at the hands of her fan club president in 1995.  Jennifer Lopez stars as Selena in this inspirational film that engages a range of issues including racial discrimination against Latinas/os, crossing over English-Spanish audiences through music, and generational tensions over language within Selena’s family.  The film includes archival footage of some of Selena’s performances.

Keywords: mainstream cinema, music.


Sleep Dealer. Dir. Alex Rivera. Maya Entertainment, 2008.
Call number: ISA Film Collection (DVD)
Duration: 90 mins.
Filming locations: Querétaro, Mexico; Mexico City, Mexico; Tijuana, Mexico
Summary: Framed through science-fiction metaphors, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer portrays a futuristic dystopia in which multinational corporations have effectively replaced governments.  Despite an ostensible gesturing towards the future, the film’s depiction of the privatization of water, the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border (including the use of drones), and virtual labor suggests the future is not too far off.  The film’s narrative concerns the plight of a young Mexican man, Memo, to improve his family’s well-being after his father is killed by a drone.  With the help of a friend, Memo gains virtual employment in the U.S. while remaining physically in Tijuana.  Sleep Dealer was lauded at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and widely praised by critics.

Keywords: domestic workers, economic dependency, globalization, immigration, labor issues, maquiladoras, masculinity, migrant workers, migration, racism, U.S.-Mexico border (San Diego-Tijuana border).


Spanglish. Dir. James L. Brooks. Columbia Pictures, 2004.
Call number: 65-DVD2215 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA; Santa Monica, CA; Culver City, CA.
Duration: 131 mins.
Summary: Starting out as an admissions essay to Princeton University, Shelbie Bruce’s character Cristina Moreno relates how her mother was the most influential figure in her life.  Cristina’s mother Flor (played by Paz Vega) immigrates with her daughter from Los Angeles to Mexico.  Cristina attends school, while her mother works two jobs.  Flor eventually seeks more lucrative employment in an upper-class home and begins working for the Claskys.  Flor’s character is a near foil for Deborah, the wife/mother figure of the Claskys, and Flor seemingly fills a maternal, and eventually romantic, void in the Claskys.  Deborah and Flor soon clash, and conflict unfolds.

Keywords: Latina characters, Los Angeles, domestic workers, maternity, mainstream cinema.


Stand and Deliver. Dir. Ramón Menéndez. American Playhouse, 1998.
Call number: 65-V2309 (Media Resource Center; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 103 mins.
Summary: Along with La Bamba and Born in East L.A., Stand and Deliver is considered one of the first mainstream Latina/o films.  The movie is based on actual events and relates the story of Jamie Escalante, a math teacher at Garfield High School in Los Angeles.  Escalante elects to teach an AP calculus course to a motley group of Chicana/o students.  Escalante and the students overcome incredible odds only to have their scores called into question by the Educational Testing Service.  Besides rendering academic achievement into a compelling and incredibly inspirational story, the film also touches on issues of Chicano gang members and youth identities.

Keywords: Chicana/o youth, mainstream cinema, Los Angeles.


Star Maps. Dir. Miguel Arteta. Twentieth Century Fox, 1997.
Call number: 65-V6687 (Media Resource Center)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 90 mins.
Summary: Recently arrived to Beverley Hills from Mexico, Carlos is a young man who aspires to be a movie or television star.  Carlos moves in with his sister, mother, and brother in a household that appears to have little stability, with the exception of his sister, Mari.  Carlos’s estranged father offers Carlos a job handing out maps showing the residences of Hollywood’s stars.  Yet, the business is merely a cover for a prostitution ring that leads Carlos to a dream acting opportunity.

Keywords: queer Latina/o cinema, masculinity.


Sugar. Dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2009.
Call number: 65-DVD9757 (Media Resource Center; additional copy for Library Use Only)
Duration: 114 mins.
Filming locations: Dominican Republic; Iowa; Arizona.
Summary: Miguel “Sugar” Santos is a professional prospect from the Dominican Republic who trains in a club/assembly line run by one of Major League Baseball’s teams.  Santos obtains a chance to play in the minor leagues in the United States and encounters numerous cultural differences that go beyond a language barrier, to explore issues of race, alienation, masculinity, religion, gender, and food.  Sugar has been nominated for numerous film festival awards and deservedly received critical praise upon its theatrical release in 2009.

Keywords: Afro-Latinos, Dominicans, economic dependency, films by non-Latina/o directors, immigration, interracial relationships, labor issues, masculinity, New York, racism.


El Súper. Dir. Leon Ichaso and Orlando Jiménez Leal. Max Mambru Films, 1979.
Call number: 65-V2638 (Media Resource Center); or ISA Film Collection (format?);
Filming locations: New York, NY.
Duration: 80 mins.
Summary: Set in New York City in 1978, El Súper is the nickname of Roberto (Raimundo Hidalgo-Gato), the superintendent of a building where he, his wife, Aurelia (Zully Montero), and their 17-year-old daughter, Aurelita (Elizabeth Peña), live.  Roberto and his wife, Aurelia, are Cuban exiles and their daughter is near fully assimilated to U.S. culture.  The family surrounds themselves with a number of Cuban friends, including Pancho, a caricature of an anti-Castro militant who fought in the Bay of Pigs.  Roberto and Aurelia wistfully remember Cuba and, while their daughter objects, choose to move to Miami to escape the cold of New York.

Keywords: Cuban, Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans, generation gap, New York City.


The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Dir. Tommy Lee Jones. Europa Corp., 2005.
Call number: 65-DVD3073 (MRC)
Filming locations: Big Bend National Park, TX; Lajitas, TX; Monahans, TX; Odessa, TX; Van Horn, TX.
Duration: 121 mins.
Summary: Set on the Texas-Mexico border, Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo) is a farmhand and close friend of Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones).  When Estrada is shot and killed by Belmont, a border guard (Dwight Yoakham), the local police do nothing reasoning Estrada was “only a wetback.”  Perkins enacts his own justice and kidnaps Belmont forcing him to walk days across northern Mexico in order to locate Estrada’s wife and give Estrada a proper burial.

Keywords: U.S.(Texas)-Mexico border, border guards, migration, mainstream cinema.


Touch of Evil. Dir. Orson Welles. Universal International Pictures, 1958.
Call number: 65-DVD440 (MRC) or 65-V1345 (MRC; Library Use Only) or 65-LD128 (MRC; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 111 mins.
Summary: Orson Welles directs and acts in this incredible and problematic film that takes place in a town that straddles the U.S.-Mexican border.  Appearing in brown face make-up, Charlton Heston plays Ramón Miguel Vargas, a police official with the Mexican government.  Vargas and his wife, Susie, are on their honeymoon when a bomb explodes on the U.S. side of the border.  Vargas’s investigations uncover corrupt police work and stoke tensions between Vargas and Welles’s character, Captain Hank Quinlan, a police officer from the U.S. side.  Quinlan frames Vargas’s wife for murder, setting the stage for the film’s climax.  A useful critical essay on Touch of Evil, “Hallucinations of Miscegenation and Murder: Dancing along the Mestiza/o Borders of Proto-Chicana/o Cinema with Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil,” appears in William Anthony Nericcio’s Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America (University of Texas Press, 2007)   .

Keywords: U.S.-Mexico border, interracial relationships, Latina/o stereotypes Latina/o films by non-Latina/o directors, mainstream cinema.


Traffic. Dir. Steven Soderbergh. USA Home Entertainment, 2001.
Call number:  65-DVD693
Filming location: San Diego, CA; El Paso, TX; Cincinnati, OH; Tucson, AZ; Sonora, Mexico.
Duration: 147 mins.
Summary: While Traffic does include a few Latina/o characters, its value to Latina/o studies stems in part from its depiction of the militarized U.S.-Mexico border and the flow of illegal narcotics across borders.  The film also broaches questions about NAFTA and how it will affect the circulation of drugs across borders.

Keywords: U.S.-Mexico border, drug trafficking, mainstream cinema.


Vivo. Dir. Kirk DeMicco, Netflix, 2021.
Call number: Not available at UNC Libraries.
Filming locations: Not applicable
Runtime: 95 minutes
Summary: Among the recent wave of major studio animated films about Latina/o and Latin American people, Vivo is most relevant to representations of Latina/o/x people in the United States. The film’s plot follows the titular Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda) a musical anthropomorphic kinkajou who stows away on a trip from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida and teams up with a distant relative of his late owner in order to deliver a song to his owner’s long-lost lover in Miami. While the film is fairly lighthearted, it has potential as an object of study for the way it calibrates themes of immigration, nature, and culture through the cartoon medium.

Keywords: Cuba, Cuban-Americans, globalization, immigration, Latina characters, Latina/o films by non Latina/o film directors, mainstream cinema, Miami, migration, music.


West Side Story. Dir. Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. The Mirisch Corporation, 1961.
Call number: DVD 205 (Music Library) or 65-DVD2942 (MRC; Library Use Only) or 65-LD89 (MRC; Library Use Only) or 65-V160 (MRC)
Filming locations: New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 152 mins.
Summary: An adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name and loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story traffics in the common stereotype of Latinas/os, here specifically Puerto Ricans, as gang members.  Set in New York City, a fierce rivalry quickly develops between the Sharks, a white Anglo-American gang, and the Jets, a Puerto Rican gang.  One of Jets founders, Tony, has grown apart from the gang and half-heartedly participates in the confrontation with the Jets.  The plot thickens, however, when Tony falls in love with Maria, the sister of the Sharks members.  The film’s songs such as “America” also contribute to the characterization of Puerto Ricans.

Keywords: Puerto Ricans, Latina/o stereotypes, mainstream cinema.


West Side Story. Dir. Steven Spielberg. 20th Century Studios, 2021.

Call number: Not available in UNC Libraries.
Filming locations: New York, NY; Paterson, NJ; Newark, NJ;
Duration: 156 mins.
Summary: An Academy Award-nominated remake of the 1961 film and 1957 stage, musical of the same name, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story aims to both modernize the original film and draw out themes related to gentrification, racial violence, gender identity, and more. Of special note is that Rita Moreno, who co-starred in the 1961 film, appears here as Valentina, a reworked version of the mentor character Doc; Curtiss Cook appears as Abe, a Black character meant to reflect the racial makeup of 1950s New York; and iris menas appears as Anybodys, a transgender member of the Jets who was reworked from the tomboy female character of the same name in the original film. While the film received acclaim from mainstream outlets, its received criticism for inauthentic representations of Latinx people and for the didacticism of its themes.

Keywords: history, immigration, Latinas/os as gang members, Latina/o films by non-Latina/o film directors, Latina/o sterotypes, music, New York, Nuyoricans, mainstream cinema, Puerto Ricans, racism, sexuality


Zoot Suit. Dir. Luis Valdez. Universal Pictures, 1981.
Call number: 65-V3556 (MRC; Library Use Only)
Filming locations: Los Angeles, CA.
Duration: 104 mins.
Summary: Critics consider Zoot Suit as representative of a second wave of Latina/o cinema in which some Latina/o filmmakers were able to receive mainstream funding, but whose films remained politically contestational.  Zoot Suit is a filmic adaptation of Luis Valdez’s theatre piece of the same name and recounts the Zoot Suit riots, specifically the Sleepy Lagoon murder and subsequent trial of Chicano youths.  While the film relates historical events, it boasts a degree of experimentation with narration and staging, and it contains expressions of Chicano nationalism tracing a Chicano identity to Aztec civilization.

Keywords: history, Chicana/o nationalism, mainstream cinema.





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