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These Spanish-Language Films Were Some Of The Best Movies Of 2019 And Need To Be On Your Watch List

Spanish-speaking cinema is perhaps in one of its best moments ever. After the huge success of the Mexican film Roma in the Academy Awards, the film industry’s spotlight has been placed on Spanish-speaking filmmaking coming from Spain and Latin America. Distributors and producers scramble to find the next big thing that can disrupt the status quo. We have selected a handful of movies that show that the region is one of the most interesting today when it comes to film productions.

Latin America is still coming to terms with the colonial past that still shapes everyday interactions, and also with military dictatorships whose right-wing politics are now resurfacing much to the disdain of activists and large segments of the population. Spain has also experienced recent turbulent years that have made Spanish citizens look at the mirror and question who they are.

But there is a common denominator in these films: Spanish language, perhaps one of the most expressive in the world. Some of these films were released in their home countries in the second half of 2018, but only travelled the festival circuit or were released in 2019 in other markets such as the United States and Europe.

Araña (Spider)
Country: Chile
Director: Andrés Wood
Cast: María Valverde, Mercedes Morán, Caio Blat

Credit: Arana Bossa Nova Films

A thriller that looks into the fascist right-wing CIA supported groups that did the dirty work for the government during the Pinochet years in Chile. A testament of the dangers of extremism in the South American country that gains relevance given the current sociopolitical climate, where activists are protesting against the neoliberal policies of president Sebastian Piñera. Wood is one of the most interesting Chilean filmmakers of the past decade and joins others like Sebastian Lelio and Pablo Larrain as the next big thing in the industry, 

Así habló el cambista (The Moneychanger
Country: Uruguay
Director: Federico Veiroj
Cast: Germán de Silva, Dolores Fonzi, Daniel Hendler 

Credit: El Cambista Oriental Features

Uruguay is not what you would call a filmmaking powerhouse, but when one of its films makes it to the festival circuit it is usually with surprising results. This comedy of errors follows a master manipulator and schemer through two decades, from the fifties to the seventies, as the main character finds increasingly convoluted and shady ways to hide money in Swiss accounts. A delicate indictment of capitalist greed. 

La Flor
Country: Argentina
Director: Mariano Llinás
Cast: Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa

Credit: El Pampero Chile

A kaleidoscope in narrative terms, this Argentinian film is made up of six episodes connected by four actresses. This film is as inventive as it gets, as each episode corresponds to a cinematic genre… this movie is film history packaged in a colorful and inventive audiovisual box. The film reminds us of the playful Historias extraordinarias, an episodic movie that reminded viewers of early Quentin Tarantino and his deconstructed storytelling, 

Monos
Country: Colombia
Director: Alejandro Landes
Cast: Sofia Buenaventura, Julian Giraldo, Karen Quintero

Credit: Stela Cine

An intimate war film that follows a group of teenagers who train as commandos in the jungle. Evocative and high in symbolism, this Colombian film reminds us of the intense yet contemplative nature of Coppola and his Apocalypse Now. Colombian cinema is alive and well, and Monos is proof of this. Colombian filmmakers have done wonders recently in showcasing rural identities… please watch The Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) if you have not already done so. 

La camarista (The Chambermaid)
Country: Mexico
Director: Lila Avilés
Cast: Gabriela Cartol, Agustina Quinci, Teresa Sánchez

Credit: La Pantera

After Alfonso Cuarón revealed how complex the lives of domestic workers, generally indigenous women, is in Mexico, Lila Avilés offers us an intimate look into the soul of a chambermaid who works in a high end hotel. Practically invisible to the people for whom she makes beds and cleans rooms, her existence is an intricate dance of entering and exiting spaces of luxury and the labyrinth-like entrails of the hotel. Unmissable. Lila Avilés will surely become a strong voice in the Mexican and international film industries. 

Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory)
Country: Spain
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas

Credit: El Deseo Productions

The great Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar gives us what is perhaps his most personal film to date, and finds the perfect alter ego in one of his old collaborators, actor Antonio Banderas in what is perhaps the best role un his already legendary career. Perhaps the best film of the year regardless of language. And you know what to expect from Pedro: a colorful film with exuberant and sexy settings, gorgeous people, stabs at Spain’s fascist past and plenty of double entendres. 

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