In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month History Month, we are highlighting a selection of award-winning independent documentaries that focus on Hispanic stories and voices. These films are available in a variety of streaming and purchase options for schools, non-profits, community organizations, libraries, and corporations. We hope you will utilize these important educational resources year-round to spark critical dialogue in your community or organization! Check out the full collection here.
Toofly, born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, NY, is determined to use her art to help others and embarks on a journey that leads her back to Ecuador after establishing a unique friendship with the first female of graffiti, Lady Pink. Fusca, a talented painter who moved to Mexico City inspired by its embrace of muralism, becomes dismayed by the machinations behind the urban art scene and is forced to reanalyze her passion. In the concrete jungle of São Paulo, Brazil Magrela expresses her feelings on the complexities of being a woman through vibrant colors and radical imagery painted across city walls only to one day be confronted by the very authorities that make her feel unwanted in the public space. Combined with historical anecdotes from pioneering artists including Lady Pink, Swoon, Lady Aiko, Nina Pandolfo and iconic graffiti photographer Martha Cooper, among others, Street Heroines is the first-of-its-kind documentary to capture the collective outcry of female street artists.
Lupe Under the Sun is a neorealist film following an aging migrant worker living in California, who longs to return to Mexico before it is too late. Featuring a cast of nonprofessional actors, real farmworkers and authentic locations, Lupe Under the Sun tackles issues of depression, homesickness and the immigrant myth of the American Dream.
Long estranged from his family in Michoacán, migrant laborer Lupe finds relief from the backbreaking work of harvesting peaches in California’s Central Valley through camaraderie and a quiet love affair with fellow immigrant Gloria. Soon the stability of his daily routine begins to crack under the weight of a life scarred with regret and missed opportunities. Filmed in a classic neorealist style, director Rodrigo Reyes’s deeply moving debut fiction feature, inspired by the life of his own grandfather, is at once an intimately drawn meditation on life’s missed chances and a tale of the universal struggles of immigrants. Winner of Film Independent’s Canon Filmmaker Award, Reyes’s unforgettable film heralds the arrival of an important new voice in American cinema.
Building the American Dream captures a turning point as a movement forms to fight widespread construction industry injustices. Grieving their son, a Mexican family campaigns for a life-and-death safety ordinance. A Salvadorian electrician couple owed thousands in back pay fights for their children’s future. A bereaved son battles to protect others from his family's preventable tragedy. A story of courage, resilience, and community, the film reveals shocking truths about the hardworking immigrants who build the American Dream, of which they are excluded.
The feature documentary, Calavera Highway (Skeleton Highway), traces the odyssey of two brothers as they decipher their family’s story—why their mother Rosa was outcast by her own family, and what happened to their father Pedro, who disappeared during the notorious 1954 U.S. government deportation program, “Operation Wetback,” in which over a million Mexican and Mexican Americans were forced across the border. Calavera Highway s a sweeping story of a family of seven men grappling with the meaning of masculinity, fatherhood, and a legacy of rootless beginnings.
Memories of a Penitent Heart is a documentary that cracks open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. The intimate lens of the film refracts on a wider cultural context: the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, and in particular, how families treat their LGBT members in a Latin American cultural and religious context. A story about the mistakes of the past and the second chances of the present, Memories of a Penitent Heart is a cautionary tale about the unresolved conflicts wrought by AIDS and a nuanced exploration of how faith is used and abused in times of crisis.
Missing in Brooks County follows the journey of two families who arrive in Brooks County to look for their loved ones, only to find a mystery that deepens at every turn. A gripping drama, it is also a deeply humane portrait of the human rights workers, activists, and law enforcement agents who confront the life-and-death consequences of a broken immigration system.
Los Hermanos/The Brothers offers a nuanced, often startling view of estranged nations through the lens of music and family. Virtuoso Afro-Cuban-born brothers—violinist Ilmar and pianist Aldo—live on opposite sides of a geopolitical chasm a half-century wide. The film tracks their parallel lives in New York and Havana, their poignant reunion, and their momentous first performances together.
Singing Our Way to Freedom chronicles the life and music of Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez from his humble beginnings as a farmworker in Blythe, California to the dramatic moment when he received one of his nation’s highest musical honors at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. As a young man in the 1970s, Chunky joined the picket lines in California and became Cesar Chavez’s favorite musician. His journey is a remarkable lens on a time when young Mexican Americans became Chicanos. Chunky learned how to employ humor, honesty and music to inspire folks to stand up and speak truth to power. His arc of transformation from marginalized farm kid to charismatic social activist shows how one person can mobilize people to change the world, reminding us that the battle for freedom has to be fought anew by every generation.
Siquieros: Walls of Passion is an hour-long documentary that profiles Mexican visual artist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) and the resurrection of his Los Angeles mural América Tropical, located at the birthplace of Los Angeles and later championed by the Chicano movement as a symbol of its oppressed culture. One of the great Mexican artists of the 20th century and one of the three great Mexican muralists along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, Siqueiros was a controversy-stirring revolutionary and activist who lived with theatrical flair and painted on an epic scale. As one of the primary advocates of modern public art, Siqueiros painted murals in Mexico, the U.S., Cuba, Chile, and Argentina.
Sepa, Nuestro Señor de los Milagros is the name of an open air penal colony created in 1951 by the Peruvian Government within the national effort to colonize the Amazon territories by promoting agricultural practices amongst inmates in a 37.000 hectares piece of land in the jungles of Central Peru. The 1987 documentary directed by Walter Saxer is the only window into this experimental penal colony in Peru, where no camera has ever entered and little has been written about.