12 Sundance-Supported Stories to Watch During Latinx Heritage Month

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Patricia Cardoso’s ‘Real Women Have Curves’ had its world premiere in the Dramatic Competition at the 2002 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.

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 and experiences, but Shari Frilot’s 16 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.

The Infiltrators (2019)

‘The Infiltrators’ premiered in the NEXT section at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

“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 it now.]

Sleep Dealer (2008)

‘Sleep Dealer’ premiered in the Dramatic Competition at the 2008 Festival.

“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 it now.]

Knock Down the House (2019)

‘Knock Down the House’ premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Festival.

“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.” [Watch it now.]

La Leyenda Negra (2020)

Patricia Vidal Delgado’s ‘La Leyenda Negra’ played the NEXT section at this year’s Festival.

“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.” [Stay tuned for a future release date.]

Blast Beat (2020)

Esteban Arango’s ‘Blast Beat’ premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Festival.

“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.”
[Stay tuned for a future release date.]

Dolores (2017)

Peter Bratt’s ‘Dolores’ premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Festival.

“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.” [Watch it now.]

Gentefied (2016)

Before landing at Netflix this year, ‘Gentefied’ played as a special event at the 2017 Festival.

“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 earlier this year.” [Watch it now.]

Cesar’s Last Fast (2014)

Lorena Parlee and Richard Ray Perez’s ‘Cesar’s Last Fast’ premiered at the 2014 Festival.

“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.” [Watch it now.]

Fruitvale Station (2014)

Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’ played the 2013 Festival after going through the 2012 Screenwriters Lab.

“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 it now.]

The Sentence (2018)

Rudy Valdez’s ‘The Sentence’ won the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary at the 2018 Festival.

“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 it now.]

Empire (2002)

Franc. Reyes’s ‘Empire’ was part of the American Showcase at the 2002 Festival.

“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 it now.]

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

In 2002, Patricia Cardoso’s ‘Real Women Have Curves’ played the Sundance Film Festival.

“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 woman—with refreshing human complexity.” [Watch it now.]


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