It’s old news that Hollywood has a huge diversity problem (#Oscarsowhite, anybody?). Even beyond the Academy Awards, this year’s Cannes Film Festival left a LOT to be desired when it came to Latino representation. Only one film from a Latino director was up for the Palm d’Or– the festival’s top honor– and only one Latino feature was included in the Directors’ Fortnight. YIKES.
Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the movie biz is run by white folks. Yes, it sucks, but the good news is there are some truly kickass people of color out there paving the way for the rest of us. I’m talking directors, specifically. You likely know and love the work of famous Latino and Latin American directors like Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez. They’re awesome! But here are some lesser-known directors whose work is worth seeking out and supporting:
1. Patricia Riggen
Riggen is a Mexican-born filmmaker currently kicking ass and taking names in Hollywood. Best known for her film Under the Same Moon and the super fun TV movie Lemonade Mouth, she’s directed prominent actors such as Eva Mendes, Patricia Arquette, and America Ferrera. In terms of directors, she’s one you for sure need to have on your radar. Her recent film, The 33, follows the real-life story of Chilean miners trapped underground for over two months.
2. Magdalena Albizu
Albizu’s documentary, La Negrita, focuses on the Afro-Latino experience in the U.S., both in terms of how individual Afro-Latinos define themselves, as well as how they’re viewed and labeled by fellow Latinos. The preview on Vimeo shows how Albizu’s own Dominican parents viewed her embrace of being black (their relationship with the term is, in a word, complicated), as well as the currency of the term “negrita” itself. You can follow Albizu’s journey towards fully funding her documentary via the film’s website.
3. Guillermo Arriaga
Arriaga is an excellent director, and is known for both Spanish-language and English-language films. You’ve likely seen Amores Perros and 21 Grams, both of which he produced and wrote. A true renaissance man, Arriaga is not only lending his perspective and vision to directing and screenwriting, he’s also a novelist. No, we have no idea when he finds the time to sleep.
4. Janicza Bravo
Bravo, who’s lived in Panama and New York, is not only a director, writer, producer, and actor, she’s also a costume designer, and her eye for style and form is evident across her work. Her first short film, Eat, was nominated for a SXSW Audience Award, and she later took home the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her film Gregory Goes Boom, which starred Michael Cera and was inspired by a very fraught first date Bravo witnessed firsthand.
5. Luis Mandoki
You’ve either seen or heard of Mexico City-born Mandoki’s films Message in a Bottle and Angel Eyes, starring none other than Jennifer Lopez. He’s an extremely successful director who’s crossed over with both Latin hits and American hits. It’s always incredibly inspiring when a director can find success across multiple audiences.
6. Patricia Cardoso
She made one of my favorite films ever, Real Women Have Curves. She made a film that celebrated a Latina’s body just the way it is, and we all fell in love with this film. It was a time when someone was saying, “Hey! You don’t have to be a model or stick thin. You can just be you.” So. Good.
7. Aurora Guerrero
Guerrero is a Chicana filmmaker and LGBT director, which makes her a voice for pretty much one of the least represented demographics on this list. Which is also why she’s so important. Cool note: Not only did Guerrero give us the coming-of-age love story Mosquita y Mari, she also assisted director Patricia Cardoso on the film, Real Women Have Curves. YAAAS!
8. Andrés Muschietti
A master of horror, Muschietti is the Argentinean director responsible for giving us Mama, an English-language, feature-length story of his own Spanish-language short film, Mamá, which he also wrote. Both versions will make you scream and cry in equal doses.
9. Carmen Marron
The Endgame director joins the list of kickass Latina filmmakers. Marron also gave us Go For It!, and any movie about dancing your way to the very top is a-ok by us. We can’t stress enough how important it is that these women get some recognition! Props to the ladies fighting back and giving young Latina directors some inspiration.
10. Rodrigo Reyes
A relative fresh face in the filmmaking world, this Mexican director garnered buzz on his documentary Purgatorio, which reimagined the Mexican / U.S. border as a mythical place. He’s also an extremely practical artist. The advice he gave to Filmmaker Magazine? Don’t quit your day job. “I wholeheartedly embrace the truth that it is incredibly rare for someone to be dedicated completely to his or her work.”
11. Cecilia Aldarondo
Aldarondo’s documentary subject hit very close to her home: she dove into the life and death of her uncle Miguel, who succumbed to AIDS in the ’80s. The story revolves as much around what isn’t said as much as what is. Her family, she learns, was not exactly forthcoming when it came to details of Miguel’s life after leaving Puerto Rico, and that included details about his partner, Robert… who then became a monk. Through Aldarondo’s lens, a story that feels quintessentially Latino finds new life and depth.
12. José Nestor Marquez
If you’re a lover of sci-fi thrillers, you should know José’s name. He’s behind Reversion, a film that tackles the nature of our memories and our increased reliance on technology. A Latino director in the world of science fiction is so important – and gives major hope to science fiction nerds everywhere.
13. Reinaldo Marcus Green
An actor, writer, and producer in addition to being a director, Green is an NYU grad who made waves at Sundance with his short film Stop, and earned a much-deserved spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s 2015 list of 25 New Faces of Indie Film.
14. Damián Szifron
A hustler to the nth degree, this man made one of two Latino-oriented films that earned high recognition at Cannes. His film Wild Tales, is a series of vignettes that he wrote AND directed. These overachievers, man.
15. Diego Lerman
While Lerman works primarily in Argentina, his film Refugiado has gained notable traction internationally.
It can totally feel frustrating when we see a lack of Latino represented at film festivals, awards shows, and in our movie theaters. But this list reminds me that there are tons of us out there, working hard and creating art, and it’s totally inspiring.
Who are some of your favorite Latino directors? mitú wants to know – leave a comment below!