To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, The Montclarion Editorial Board has put together a special Editor’s Choice featuring picks from section editors sharing their favorite films with Hispanic people in front of or behind the camera. From slice-of-life comedies to dark fantasy dramas, there’s a little something for everyone this week!
Coco (Disney Plus)
Fueled by his desire to know more about his family and their history through music, Lee Unkrich’s “Coco” is about a boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who explores and learns much about his ancestors, and is challenged to remember them and their impact, or otherwise, they will be permanently removed. The film pays homage to Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in order to explain the significance of it in primarily the Mexican community, especially to a younger audience. Día de Los Muertos is the belief that families “visit” their ancestors to honor and maintain the remembrance of them in order to keep them in the afterlife.
First of all, that little boy can sing, and his passion for music takes him on an unexpected journey to find a purpose that is bigger than him. The lively animation and exuberant original music truly play a part in what makes this film so compelling. This multi-award-winning film captures the significance of family and vulnerability in this multigenerational household that brings such an emotional touch and is unequivocally a top motion picture to remember.
The Get Down (Netflix)
The 1970’s-inspired television show “The Get Down” follows Ezekiel Figuero, also known as “Books” (Justice Smith) juggling the dichotomy and duality between pursuing his music group – The Get Down Brothers in the Bronx, or taking advice from his family and Mylene Cruz (Herizen Guardiola) his “Butterscotch Queen,” to succeed in the corporate world in New York City.
Executive Producer and Grammy award winner Nas’ expertise is undoubtedly elicited through the wordsmith Figuero and throughout The Get Down Brothers. Figuero brings beauty in the pain through the impediments that life hits him with through poetry and rap. The coming of age series not only highlights the struggle of Ezekiel but also others trying to live out their purpose in life. A future where they are not confined but a liberating one. Infused with Black and Latino culture, the series highlights Grandmaster Flash, a DJ played by Mamoudou Athie, who pioneered “The Get Down,” and Latinx impact in entertainment through some movements in disco and influence in hip-hop culture. The two-part series possesses a uniqueness that isn’t often seen and an essence of compelling storytelling that leaves your eyes glued to the screen.
By Lynise Olivacce, Editor-in-Chief
‘Selena’ (Available to Rent or Buy)
“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom!” You know when you hear this line, there is only one person that comes to mind: Selena…Selena Quintanilla that is!
Written and directed by Gregory Nava, the original 1997 film, “Selena” is a biographic that captures Quintanilla’s early life and career as she blossomed into one of the world’s biggest musical icons.
Selena, played by Bronx native and Latin pop culture icon Jennifer Lopez, is born into a musical Mexican-American family in Texas. At just 10 years old, her father Abraham (Edward James Olmos) realizes that his daughter is talented and as any parent would do, he lands her gigs at small venues. From there, she never looked back, making strides on the Latin charts and selling out stadiums. Quintanilla marries her guitarist Chris Perez (Jon Seda) and begins recording her first English album, a highly anticipated album that would propel her to mainstream artist level like Gloria Estefan. However, tragically she never gets to complete it.
“Selena” is a beautiful yet heart-wrenching depiction of perseverance, talent and dedication. With a Grammy award-winning performance by Lopez, whose portrayal of Quintanilla is like no other, one thing is for sure: we will always be dreaming of Selena.
By Sekhena Sembenu, Managing Editor
‘Real Women Have Curves’ (MAX)
“Real Women Have Curves” is an indie drama starring America Fererra and directed by Patricia Cordoso. The 2002 film centers on the life of Ana Garcia and the issues she faces entering womanhood in her tight-knit Mexican household. A senior in high school, Ana wants to go to college but her dreams are halted as her parents’ expectations of becoming a meek housewife keep her chained at home. To support the family, she gets a job at her sister’s struggling dress factory. Ana strives to reach her goals despite her parents’ disapproval, slowly freeing herself from Hispanic cultural norms. She also deals with body image issues, sexual liberation and a complex mother-daughter relationship.
This incredible film will resonate with a lot of women who are first generation Hispanics as it covers many relevant and taboo topics in the community. It is a confirmation that women can follow their dreams and not feel guilty for not fulfilling those of papi y mami. Featuring a few hilarious scenes and too many relatable moments, “Real Women Have Curves” is a staple coming-of-age film.
By Kamil Santana, News Editor
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (Available to Rent or Buy)
“Pan’s Labyrinth,” or “El Laberinto del Fauno” in its native Spanish, is a fantasy drama from Academy Award-winning Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. It follows a young girl named Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero, growing up in Francoist Spain five years after the Spanish Civil War. While grappling the reality of her mother’s new husband, a sociopathic Falange Captain, Ofelia discovers she is actually the reincarnated daughter of the king of the underworld and is guided by a faun to complete three tasks to help her reclaim her throne.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is considered to be Del Toro’s magnum opus, and for good reason. Its heartbreaking story, beautiful cinematography and incredible performances, particularly that of the young Baquero, whose innocence makes the fantasy shine and the horrors of Captain Vidal’s actions that much more stomach-churning. It is a cornerstone of not just Hispanic cinema, but fantasy films on the whole.
By Colin Luderitz, Entertainment Editor
Dominique Monféry’s ‘Destino’ perfectly encapsulates the gracefulness of old Disney animation, and the whimsical imagination of Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. ‘Destino’ follows a woman who falls in love with time personified, Chronos. Though, as the two long for each other, they become separated by the labyrinth that is Salvador Dalí’s art. Alongside the classic clock motif of Dalí’s work we see grand art of sundials, statues, buildings and, ultimately, her final resting place as a bell come between her and true love. With music composed by Armando Dominguez and performed by Dora Luz the tempos of the melody and the animated woman’s ballet guide us through the tensions, horrors and bliss of love as she longs for Chronos, a love she is not meant to have.
It is a shame this piece remained lost for so long. Coming in at only six minutes, it tells a story that feels infinite. It is truly the line between unsettling and stunning, with its magnificent artistry, fluid music and timeless story.
By Colleen Sullivan, Chief Copy Editor
‘Stand And Deliver’ (Available to Rent or Buy)
“Stand and Deliver” follows the story of a high school teacher named Jaime Escalante, who takes on the challenge to teach a group of marginalized kids in Los Angeles. The relationship between Mr. Escalante and the group of students grows strong as they get closer to taking an AP test. “Stand and Deliver” is based on the true story of Jaime Escalante, who was able to help his students improve throughout their high school experience. Mr. Escalante is ruthless with his students as he sees the pontential of these kids. A great feel-good movie that makes you root for the students and teacher to succeed.
By Emily Irizarry-Rosario, Social Media Manager
‘The Book of Life’ (MAX)
Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, “The Book Of Life” is based on the Day Of The Dead, a Mexican holiday to remember and celebrate those who have passed, and centers Manolo (Diego Luna) a bullfighter who wishes to be a musician instead. Manolo is also stuck in a love triangle with Maria (Zoë Saldana) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum). Manolo believes Maria has died and lets Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, kill him. Manolo is then transported to the Land of the Remembered but it is revealed to him that Maria has in fact not died and he becomes determined to meet her once again.
“The Book Of Life” is a heartwarming, thrilling, magical and fun story to watch. Even though it is targeted towards children, all ages can enjoy this film. And it has a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead.
By Avery Nixon, Opinion Editor
‘Blue Beetle’ (Available to Rent or Buy)
“Blue Beetle” is a superhero film that was released in August, starring actor Xolo Maridueña. The movie centers around Maridueña’s character Jaime Reyes, a recent Mexican-American college graduate in Palmero City. While searching for the job, Maridueña meets Jenny Kord, whose family company owns an item known as the Scarab. The Scarab is an alien self-defense system relic that fuses with the person it chooses. After stealing it from her aunt, Jenny gives the Scarab to Jaime. The Scarab then chooses Jaime, fusing with him. Jaime and Jenny then must protect Jaime from getting killed by Jenny’s aunt, who wants to use it for military purposes.
This movie is remarkable for so many different reasons. The dialogue between the characters is strong, and it allows the movie to portray the themes of family and perseverance well. The character development is also powerful, especially with the character of Ignacio, Victoria’s cyborg test soldier. I won’t spoil anything, but the movie allows you to see an enemy of the protagonist in a different light. “Blue Beetle” captivates viewers with both classic superhero action and raw emotion.
By Sal DiMaggio, Feature Editor
‘Jane the Virgin’ (Netflix)
“Jane the Virgin,” is an American television show based on “Juana la Virgen,” which is a Venezuelan telenovela. This show focuses on one woman, Jane Villanueva, and her not-so-ordinary life in Florida as a Venezuelan-American. This show is impactful in its comedic narrative, with critical undertones that highlight issues that continuously weaken modern-day America. Issues regarding class/wealth, gender roles, race, a difficult immigration system, and sexual orientation. This show can have you laughing one second and crying the next, all while keeping the viewer encapsulated in the show and Jane’s hectic life.
By Ajay Gobind, Business Manager
‘After Tonight, Everything Will Be Different’ (Available to Purchase)
“After Tonight, Everything Will Be Different,” by author and musician, Adam Gnade, is an autobiographical book of short stories which feels like conversations and recited memories you’d hear over dinner with a long-lost friend, and that’s because that’s what the book is.
Gnade chronicles his life through momental and important meals which shaped and ultimately changed him for the better despite the hardships some of those meals represent. Be that cactus candy in Mexico as a three year old boy, a tuna melt later in life at his parent’s seafood restaurant in Southern California, or an eggplant parmigiana on the run from a bill you just dined and dashed on as a young man.
I love the voice that this book is told in and the tone and pain that it conveys despite its lively and honest grasp at finding beauty in the hardships of a full life that is far from over. It is an account of a youthfully robust and informed experience of life despite years and decades to come.
By Alex Pavljuk, Fiction Editor