Kicking off September 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is almost half over, and while Latinx people are awesome all year round, it’s nice to put an emphasis on all the things that make us great. One of those things is our queer films, creators, and stories.
Here is a list of essential Latinx queer films to watch before Hispanic Heritage Month ends on October 15.
Mosquita y Mari (2012)
Set in Huntington Park, California, Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari is the story of two Chicana teens whose new friendship is lingering on the fence between a platonic relationship and something more. What makes this a standout is the gritty and realistic tone, and the understated performances by the lead actresses, who happen to be the ages they’re playing, and who happen to actually to be Chicanas from the Los Angeles area. Mari is a street-smart, undocumented girl helping to raise her younger sister while her mother works. Yolanda, on the other hand, is a sheltered, straight-A-student whose strict upbringing is aimed to get her into college. Despite their differences, the girls become close, and the unspoken tension between them drives this coming-of-age film that accurately depicts the Latinx cultural pressures of first generation kids in the U.S. without sacrificing the tender moments of a first love.
Young & Wild (2012)
Young & Wild is a movie about a 17-year-old girl who likes sex and loves to blog about it. From writer-director Marialy Rivas, this Chilean film explores a myriad of topics, all pertaining to female sexuality. Daniela is an avid blogger who uses her platform to chronicle her sexual conquests and explorations, in addition to her thoughts on religion and spirituality. When Daniela’s blog becomes widely popular, however, and the boy she’s been dating finds out she’s been seeing their female coworker behind his back, Daniela can’t commit to only dating him. One major critique about Young & Wild is its open ending, but that’s also its appeal, as the teenage girl experience is defined by having more questions than answers.
A Fantastic Woman (2017)
This list would look awfully empty without last year’s Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film, A Fantastic Woman, starring Daniela Vega and Francisco Reyes. Marina is a trans woman who has just lost her boyfriend. The mourning of a lover is difficult on its own, but the process becomes all the more grueling with every obstacle thrown at her following the unexpected death. With cinematography you could sink your teeth into and a beautiful performance by Vega, who portrays the resilience, sheer strength and grace of a truly fantastic woman, it’s easy to see why the title is so fitting.
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Set against the backdrop of the end of Mexico’s 71 years under presidential administrations representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and aided by an incredible soundtrack, Y Tu Mama Tambien is a coming-of-age road-trip drama about two friends who take a trip with an older woman they meet at a wedding. During their trip, they jerk off together, as straight bros do, have a threesome, and learn a lot about themselves and each other in the process. Alfonso Cuarón directed and co-wrote the script with his brother, Carlos, and it was nominated for the 2001 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
The Fish Child (2009)
The artistic partnership between actress Lucía Puenzo and writer-director Inés Efron is one of those that come along once in a blue moon, leaving the world morsels of gold like The Fish Child and their 2007 collaboration, XXY. In The Fish Child, Lala (Puenzo) is in love with Ailin (Mariela Vitale), a girl who has served as a maid in her home since they were both very young. They’re secretly in a relationship, but Lala soon finds out that Ailin has been having an affair with Lala’s father. The pair make a plan to run away together, but first, they have the rest of Ailin’s dark past to take care of. The film is loosely based on Efron’s book of the same name.
There will never be anyone like the great Chavela Vargas, and she was not afraid to tell anyone that. Vargas was an achingly beautiful singer who could tear your heart out within the first verse of a song. She was a true interpreter of the heartache in Mexican Ranchera music, a lover of women, and a revolutionary Mexican queer icon. Chavela is a documentary that tells of the legendary singer’s battle with alcoholism, her rough beginnings, and the struggle to be respected in a deeply sexist, male-dominated field. The film follows the singer as she prepares for her return to the stage, an effort greatly aided by filmmaker, and close friend, Pedro Almodóvar. An added gossipy bonus in this is the glimpse into her love life. Vargas, known for charisma that could seduce any woman, reveals in interviews some well-known names that made their way into her bed once upon a time, including Ava Gardner and Frida Kahlo. Come for the scandal, stay for the legend.
Bad Education (2004)
Pedro Almodóvar loves him some melodrama, and Bad Education is no exception. Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez star in a story about two childhood friends and first loves who reunite as adults. One is a film director and the other is a screenwriter with a story to pitch about their childhood in a Catholic school, where one of the boys was sexually abused by a priest. Mystery arises when it’s revealed one of them isn’t who he says he is. Keep an eye out for Lluís Homar (Broken Embraces) and other recurring Almodóvar performers.
Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s surrealist paintings, this visually stunning biopic focuses on the artist’s often-volatile relationship with Mexican artist Diego Rivera, who was known for his exquisite frescos. Though Kahlo’s relationships with women are only briefly hinted at, there is a much-appreciated appearance by Chavela Vargas, a close friend and former lover of Kahlo’s, who delivers a heart-wrenching rendition of “La Llorona” in the film. Shortly before this biopic was being pitched around Hollywood, Kahlo was relatively unknown in the U.S., which is why the film’s path to fruition was so difficult. But it surpassed expectations and became widely successful, increasing the artist’s popularity in the years to follow.
I Dream In Another Language (2017)
Martín is a researcher aiming to record the last two remaining native speakers of the Zikril language for the purpose of preserving it. However, upon his arrival to the secluded village where they reside, he finds that the two men have not spoken in 50 years due to a feud rooted in their youth. It’s rumored to be have been a love triangle involving a woman who has since passed, but the story is more complex than that, as love and relationships often are. Director Ernesto Contreras’ story about preserving the unique perspective of an endangered language is a lush and emotional film that will stay with you long after it’s over.
Signature Move (2017)
Zaynab is a Pakistani lesbian living in Chicago who becomes obsessed with Mexican wrestling. Fatefully, she meets a cute Mexican bookstore owner who makes her want to do all the things she’s been trepidatious about, including getting into Lucha Libre herself and coming out to her mother. All you really need to know is that Signature Move is the fun, fluffy rom-com you’ve been waiting for. Bonus: It was written by a queer woman of color, star Fawzia Mirza.