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14 Sundance-Supported Stories That Explore the Latinx Experience in the United States

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Patricia Vidal Delgado’s “La Leyenda Negra” premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

By Dilcia Barrera, Shari Frilot, and Ana Souza

Shari Frilot, Ana Souza, and Dilcia Barrera are programmers at the Sundance Film Festival. Learn more about our programmers for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival here.

Latinx Heritage Month has arrived in the United States in time for us to shine a light on our Latinx community, which has always shown itself to be unapologetically diverse, creative and resilient, with a richness of stories that traverse cultural, generational, and language barriers. Never has it felt more urgent or pressing for us to understand the Latinx experience and celebrate it than now, in a year of tumultuous change and unprecedented dangers to the community. To celebrate these filmmakers and their work, we’ve pulled from our archives to put together a list of Latinx stories that have played the Sundance Film Festival over the years.

The Sundance Film Festival has stood by the work of these often silenced voices. Currently, the programming team is blessed to include three Latinas from different countries, experiences but Shari Frilot’s 17 years of work as a fearless champion of this community must be noted and celebrated. Cheers to all the filmmakers, curators, and supporters of Latinx work. Below, see our list of films and where you can stream them today.


RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (2021)

“Talented, energetic, and full of joy, Rita Moreno has been dazzling audiences for over 70 years. Whether showcased on television, film, or stage, her artistry transcends singing, dancing, and acting, as she continuously reinvents herself and pushes creative limits. Moreno is a pioneer and one of the most authentic performers of our time, and she has the EGOT status to prove it. With intimate access to her subject, director Mariem Pérez Riera created a loving cinematic journey that details the life of a groundbreaking artist who truly embodies the American Dream.” [WATCH NOW]

THE INFILTRATORS (2019)

“Directors Cristina Ibarra (in her Sundance debut) and Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer, 2008 Sundance Film Festival) design a hybrid cinematic language, combining familiar documentary form and scripted narrative to map an uncharted domain: inside an Obama-era immigration detention system. Based on true events, The Infiltrators is both a suspenseful account of a high-stakes mission and an emotionally charged portrait of visionary youth fighting for their community.” [WATCH NOW]

SLEEP DEALER (2008)

“Mexico, 2020 A.D. The dreams of the information revolution have been realized. A high-speed, transnational internet covers the globe, tying distant people and places together. But Jorge Cruz lives on the fringe of this futuristic global village. Jorge is a young Mexican peasant, struggling with his family to maintain a small plot of land in the face of drought and debt. His family needs him, but he has dreams of something better, of leaving, of finding a new life, maybe even in America. When tragedy strikes and his family is killed, Jorge has only one option: to flee north and seek the new life he’s always dreamed of.” [WATCH NOW]

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (2019)

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young, bold Puerto Rican bartender from the Bronx, had to work double shifts to save her family’s home from foreclosure. She knows many of her neighbors are also hard-pressed to make a living. In order to bring representation to one of the most marginalized constituencies in America, Alexandria runs for office. This film follows four women — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin — who join a movement of insurgent candidates to topple incumbents in an electric primary race for Congress. At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, these four women — all political outsiders — unite to do what many consider impossible. Their efforts result in a legendary upset.” [WATCH NOW]

LA LEYENDA NEGRA (2020)

“First-time feature filmmaker Patricia Vidal Delgado lovingly crafts a poignant and emotional coming-of-age story that unfolds against a tense and divided social backdrop. Equally capturing the political turbulence affecting communities and the prickliness of teenage dynamics, La Leyenda Negra examines the price of sacrifices and the rarity of true connection. Drawing on striking black-and-white photography and raw emotion, this quietly bold film marks Delgado as an exciting new cinematic voice.” [WATCH NOW]

BLAST BEAT (2020)

“Esteban Arango’s blazing debut feature cracks open a sibling rivalry in an isolating time predating social media. Real-life brothers Mateo and Moises bring honesty and brazenness to this energetic, metal-fueled coming-of-age story that unapologetically confronts the reality of growing up between cultures. Blast Beat is a Latinx anthem for a displaced generation — and it’s the anthem we’ve been waiting for.” [WATCH NOW]

DOLORES (2017)

“History tells us Cesar Chavez transformed the U.S. labor movement by leading the first farm workers’ union. But missing from this narrative is his equally influential co-founder, Dolores Huerta, who fought tirelessly alongside Chavez for racial and labor justice and became one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century. Like so many powerful women advocates, Dolores and her sweeping reforms were — and still are — sidelined and diminished. Even as she empowered a generation of immigrants to stand up for their rights, her relentless work ethic was constantly under attack. False accusations from foes and friends alike, of child neglect and immoral behavior — she married three times and raised 11 children — pushed Dolores out of the very union she helped create.” [WATCH NOW]

EL PLANETA (2021)

“Multitalented writer-director Amalia Ulman’s charming feature-length directorial debut blurs the line between fact and fiction — Ulman plays Leo and her real-life mother, Ale Ulman, plays Leo’s undeniably lovable mother. Borrowing heavily from Ulman’s lived experiences and inspired by the Spanish picaresque genre, El Planeta elegantly crafts a glimpse into the life of a family striving to survive in the post-2009 economic crisis and questioning who is entitled to a better life.” [COMING SOON]

GENTEFIED (2020)

“Bicultural millennials and old-school pillars of the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles hustle to maintain their cultural identity when faced with an influx of outsiders to their traditionally Latino community. Each episode of this comedic drama focuses on a different character as they survey the complications and benefits of modern gentrification. Three episodes of this short form episodic series had their debut at the 2017 Festival before being developed into a longer series that premiered on Netflix in 2020 and has since been renewed for a second season.” [WATCH NOW]

CESAR’S LAST FAST (2014)

“In 1988, Cesar Chavez embarked on what would be his last act of protest in his remarkable life. Driven in part to pay penance for feeling he had not done enough, Chavez began his “fast for life,” a 36-day water-only hunger strike, to draw attention to the horrific effects of unfettered pesticide use on farm workers, their families, and their communities. Using never-before-seen footage of Chavez during his fast and testimony from those closest to him, directors Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee weave together the larger story of Chavez’s life, vision, and legacy. A deeply religious man, Chavez’s moral clarity in organizing and standing with farmworkers at risk of his own life humbled his family, friends, and the world. Cesar’s Last Fast is a moving and definitive portrait of the leader of a people who became an American icon of struggle and freedom.” [WATCH NOW]

FRUITVALE STATION (2014)

“Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who loved his friends, was generous to strangers, and had a hard time telling the truth to the mother of his beautiful daughter. He was scared and courageous and charming and raw, and as human as the community he was part of. That community paid attention to him, shouted on his behalf, and filmed him with their cell phones when BART officers, who were strong, intimidated, and acting in the way they thought they were supposed to behave around people like Oscar, shot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day in 2009. Director Ryan Coogler makes an extraordinary directorial debut with this soulful account of the real-life event that horrified the nation. Featuring radiant performances by Latinx actress Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan as Grant, a young man whose eyes were an open window into his soul, Fruitvale offers a barometer reading on the state of humanity in American society today.” [WATCH NOW]

THE SENTENCE (2018)

“Drawing from hundreds of hours of footage, filmmaker Rudy Valdez shows the aftermath of his sister Cindy’s incarceration for conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend — something known, in legal terms, as ‘the girlfriend problem.’ Cindy’s 15-year mandatory sentence is hard on everyone, but for her husband and children, Cindy’s sudden banishment feels like a kind of death that becomes increasingly difficult to grapple with.” [WATCH NOW]

EMPIRE (2002)

“A young Latinx hustler from the south Bronx of New York makes a deal with a successful Wall Street investment banker in order to make a better life for himself and his new family.” [WATCH NOW]

REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (2002)

“Curves on a blossoming young woman can be sexy, but not if you are told you have too many of them. Real Women Have Curves is a humorous and warmhearted look at a Mexican American teenage girl coming of age in a boiling cauldron of cultural expectations, class constrictions, family duty, and her own personal aspirations. In this auspicious debut, Patricia Cardoso gives us a cast of characters we very rarely see — working-class Latina women — with refreshing human complexity.” [WATCH NOW]


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