Whether you want to celebrate Women’s History Month with a movie night or appreciate media about powerful mujeres year-round, you’re probably looking for a few films, documentaries or TV series to add to your streaming queue right now. Regrettably (and shamefully), most of the lists cropping on entertainment news sites don’t feature projects made for, by or about Latinas. With that in mind, we’ve put together some titles centering narratives about Latina trailblazers and heroines from Latin American and U.S. history. So clear your weekend cal and purchase all of your fave movie theater snacks, because you can watch (most of) these films, documentaries and series right from your computer screen.
If you’re looking for documentaries about Latina heroines, start with Dolores, the 2017 film about the life and activism of Chicana labor union activist Dolores Huerta. The doc, executive produced by Carlos Santana and Benjamin Bratt, and directed by Bratt’s brother, Peter, delves into how the 90-year-old co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later named the United Farm Workers), her famous “Sí se puede” rallying cry and her role in the women’s rights movement. Including interviews with Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and more, Dolores celebrates the history and ongoing activism of one of the country’s most critical civil rights leaders. Watch Dolores on Amazon Prime.
2. Isabel: The Intimate Story Of Isabel Allende
Isabel: The Intimate Story Of Isabel Allende, a three-part docuseries about the famed Chilean author and feminist, is one of the most exciting new drops. The HBO Max series, directed by Rodrigo Bazaes, premiered on March 12, just in time for Women’s History Month. Like all good biopics, Isabel reveals the person behind the icon, portraying Allende’s path from a young woman fighting her way into a male-dominated industry to the most-read Spanish-language author of all time. As the niece of assassinated Chilean President Salvador Allende, the series also gets political, bringing light to her life under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet as well as her own feminist activism. Watch Isabel on HBO Max.
3. Knock Down the House
Knock Down the House portrays the political rise of a Latina icon in the making: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While the 2019 documentary by Rachel Lears revolves around the 2018 congressional primary campaigns of four progressive women, Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, the Puerto Rican now-congresswoman is the only one who wins her race (though Bush won in the next election cycle) and thus much of the film focuses on her story. A first-time candidate with a passion for social justice, a degree in international relations and economics, and a job in bartending, the doc shows how a regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx unseated one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress with a progressive platform and a focus on community. Watch Knock Down the House on Netflix.
In 2017, María Lorena Ramírez’s name made international headlines when the young woman defeated 500 other runners from 12 different countries at the Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo in Puebla, Mexico. Ramírez didn’t just stand out because of her speed but also because she ran without professional gear. Instead, she donned the traditional clothes of the Tarahumara, Indigenous people in Chihuahua, Mexico, including a floral skirt and a pair of huaraches. Capturing the world’s attention, Ramírez became the focus of the 2019 documentary Lorena: Light-Footed Woman, which was directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo. The short doc beautifully tells the tale of a young woman’s athletic training in the mountains where she grew up to become a celebrated long-distance runner while staying true to her culture and traditions. Lorena: Light-Footed Woman is streaming on Netflix.
5. Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied!
In Honduras, the most dangerous country in the world for land defenders, Berta Cáceres’ life was taken because of her commitment to the environmental justice struggle. Back in the Central American country, Berta’s assassination hasn’t been forgotten and neither has her fight. The 2017 short doc Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied!, directed by Sam Vinal, shows how her work lives on among Indigenous Lenca and Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people of Honduras, who continue to struggle against capitalism, patriarchy, racism and homophobia, for our land and our water. Watch Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied! on Vimeo.
Celia reveals the story of one of the most powerful voices and greatest icons of Latin music, Afro-Cubana salsera Celia Cruz. The Spanish-language novela, produced by Fox Telecolombia for RCN Televisión and Telemundo, starts at the beginning, when Cruz was an aspiring singer in Havana, and takes viewers through to her time joining La Sonora Matancera, leaving her homeland with her would-be husband Pedro Knight and gaining massive superstardom as the “Queen of Salsa.” Watch Celia on AppleTV+.
7. Beauties of the Night
In the first half of the 20th century, showgirls dominated the entertainment scene in Latin America. Their glamorous looks and luxe performances were enjoyed by audiences of all ages and genders. But around the 1970s, as VHS pornos took off, these scantily clad talents started to lose work and, as a result, their lucrative incomes. Oftentimes, these women came from low-income backgrounds and didn’t have a formal education, forcing many of the vedettes to also feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose and impelling some to take on work they didn’t feel good about in order to stay afloat in the industry. In Beauties of the Night, directed by María José Cuevas, we see some of Mexico and South America’s leading showgirls, Olga Breeskin, Lyn May, Rossy Mendoza, Wanda Seux and Princesa Yamal, and how their lives transformed as the work they were once famous for lost its reverence. Watch Beauties of the Night on Netflix.
The 2002 biographical drama film Frida shares the professional and private life of one of the most famous woman artists of all time, Frida Kahlo. Directed by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek, the Academy Award-nominated film touches on many aspects of the late Mexican artist and feminist’s life, from her life-altering accident in 1922 and her tumultuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera to her bisexual identity, political affiliations and, of course, her time-defying art and self portraits. Watch Frida on Amazon Prime.
9. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
With a career spanning 70 years, Rita Moreno is one of the most famous and beloved actresses of all time. The only Latina to have won all four major annual U.S. entertainment awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, her own life is certainly worthy of a film; and in 2021, director Mariem Pérez Riera gave the Puerto Rican star what she deserves with Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It. The documentary, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 29, 2021, features interviews with Moreno, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Normal Lear, Whoopi Goldberg and more. More than just a celebration of all the barriers Moreno broke, the film also delves into her personal life, including the racism she endured on her road to stardom, the sexual violence she experienced in Hollywood, her struggle with mental health and suicidal ideation and her fight for multidimensional roles for people of color. While Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It isn’t streaming yet, it is set to air on PBS’ American Masters later this year.
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