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Latinx Representation in Film

Popular Themes and Tropes in Latinx Cinema

The thematic filmography section of the Latinx Representation in Film Research Guide is a curation of the various themes and perspectives found within Latinx cinema. It is increasingly difficult to categorize the powerful narratives and stories that comprise this extensive collection of films. The goal of this thematic filmography is to identify important films within Latinx cinema focused on specific recurring themes and provide an avenue for researchers to better understand Latinx representation. Each thematic section will open the door for the public to explore films that have had an impact on Latinx representation and shed light on the nuances of the Latinx lived experience. Some of the major recurring themes we identified when creating the Latinx Representation in Film Research Guide include the Borderlands, Finding Home, Latinx Biopics, History, Family, and Identity. This thematic filmography by themes will include 5-10 films specifically selected for each section. It will also highlight some of the incredible films from the directors we interviewed in our Cine Latine Interview Series (Coming Soon).

Cataloged films listed below will link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Please note that not all films listed below are part of the Library's collections. To access films part of the Library's moving image collections, please contact the Moving Image Research Center to confirm availability of film titles and the best way to gain access. As collections are stored off-site, advance notice is needed to prepare items.

Borderland & Finding Home

Some of the recurring themes that we encountered when compiling our list of Latinx films were the themes of Finding Home and the Borderlands. Finding Home is a broad topic that can encompass the complexity of migration and navigating life as a Latinx in the United States. "Finding Home" can very much be in the literal sense by moving to another country, however, it can also describe a feeling of not belonging here or there. These stories and narratives provide a glimpse into the lived experiences and nuances of navigating cultural and physical barriers in the search for home. This also ties into our theme of the Borderlands and the vast array of stories that detail the complexity of navigating the physical border in the Southern United States. Surrounding communities have utilized cultural production like film to provide insight into how political borders have both divided and unified people. This unique geographical space contains powerful narratives that can relate to the Latinx immigrant experience all across the nation.

Selection of Borderland Themed Films

Selection of Finding Home Themed Films

Biopics & Histories

Latinx Biopics and Histories are crucial when considering Latinx representation in film. Narratives focused on a particular historical period or personality provide insight into how Latinx leaders and histories continue to be remembered through the medium of film. “La Bamba” (1987) and “Selena” (1997) highlight the cultural impact of Latinx music and its influence across the United States. These films provide a unique glimpse into the lives of renowned Latinx musicians and how their cultural legacy continues to live on today. The biopics of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerto share powerful and compelling perspectives from the Chicano Civil Rights Movement and their importance to American history. The “History” section of this thematic filmography is focused on films that are inspired by historical events or of particular historical significance to Latinx cinema. “Walkout” (2006) directed by Edward James Olmos is based on the East Los Angeles student walkouts of 1968. These crucial moments in Latinx history are preserved and documented in Latinx cinema. A film like “West Side Story” (1961) contains immense cultural significance due to its depiction of social issues centering on Latinx characters and stories.

Selection of Latinx Biopic Films

Selection of Latinx History Films

Family & Identity

The Family section of the thematic filmography contains films that explore Latinx family dynamics and are primarily intended for younger audiences. A film like "Coco" (2017) provides a glimpse into the familial cultural practices associated with life and death in Mexican and Mexican-American communities. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018) is an animated superhero film where the main protagonist is an Afro-Latino teenager from New York City. The usage of Spanglish in this film and the ability for Latinx children to see themselves as a superhero highlights the importance of this type of representation in Latinx cinema. A film like "Father of the Bride" (2022 interrogates familial and cultural dynamics amongst a Cuban-American family as they prepare for a wedding. These depictions of the family and Latino protagonists on screen allow Latinx audiences to see their own family and cultural heritage reflected. This representation is particularly crucial to younger Latinx audiences as there has been a shift toward more inclusivity in children’s films in recent years. The theme of Identity explores a variety of different aspects of Latinx culture and the dynamics of identity formation within the United States. The film "Daughter of the Sea" (2022) is about a young Puerto Rican woman experiencing a spiritual awakening that draws her closer to her African and Indigenous roots on the island. This coming-of-age film utilizes Afro-futurism to tell a story about identity and the importance of connecting to ancestral traditions. "Mosquita y Mari" (2012) is a coming-of-age story about two Mexican-American women navigating their identity and sexuality. These films provide a nuanced perspective into the Latino lived experience and go beyond the mere representation of Latina/s/x(s) on screen. They share insightful stories about navigating identity formation as a Latina/o/x in the United States.

Selection of Family Themed Films

Selection of Identity Themed Films