Five movies and TV shows by Latinx creators to check out during Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of progresstexas.org
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With National Hispanic Heritage month well underway, Butler students shared their thoughts on some Latinx directed and inspired movies and TV shows. Here are five must-watch films and TV shows directed and acted by members of the Latinx community.
This teenage comedy-drama television show — now available on Netflix — follows a quartet of loveable misfits as they learn to navigate the challenges of high school and adolescence. Relationships are tested as the four friends — Monse, Jamal, Ruby and Cesar — encounter moments of love, triumph, pain and struggles they have never experienced before. First-year music industry major Arie Likhtman loved the show because of its truthful, raw writing.
“I liked ‘On My Block’ specifically because it showcased more real perspectives,” Likhtman said. “It became hard to watch, but like in a good way.”
The show is set in a predominantly-Hispanic and Black neighborhood, which brings unique social issues to light. While remaining true to its comedic heart, the show works to address hard-hitting issues such as gang violence, drug addiction and racism.
“Roma” was inspired by director Alfonso Cuarón’s own childhood. Cuarón even dressed the film’s set with actual furniture from his childhood home.
The film follows Cleo, a domestic worker for a Mexican family. She takes care of the four children while assisting the parents with many household tasks. Complications begin when Cleo’s host family begins to break apart and she discovers she is pregnant.
“Roma” is a story of love and trust. Through his writing and characters, Cuarón’s screenplay leaves viewers questioning the meaning of true family.
Cuarón was the first Latinx man to receive an Academy Award for Best Director for the film “Gravity” in 2014. Five years later, he made history once again with “Roma” by receiving a second nomination and second win for Best Director. Although the original film is in Spanish, there are plenty of resources for non-Spanish speakers, such as subtitles and dubbed versions, to enjoy the film as well.
“Jane the Virgin” is a loose English adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela “Juana la Virgen.” The show features an all-star cast composed almost exclusively of Latinx actors and is written by a team of Latinx writers. It also features a strong female lead, Jane played by Gina Rodriguez, as she navigates the winding paths of love, betrayal, family and pregnancy. Butler students were pleasantly surprised with the addition of this title.
First-year finance major Graham Chen said he had never heard of “Jane the Virgin” before.
“Maybe I had seen a commercial for it once or twice, but never watched it,” Chen said. “I just didn’t think it would be something I would be interested in.”
After talking about the show, Chen was interested in looking at the series more closely. For many students, the series had not even crossed their radar. On the contrary, Dr. Gina Forrest, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, expressed different remarks.
“I have seen all of [the shows and movies] you listed and have more to add such as ‘Party of Five,’” Forrest said.
She referred any student interested in Latinx culture, community or media of any kind to contact the Latinx Student Union here at Butler University.
The American television series closely resembles many Spanish telenovela series, drawing a lot of inspiration from the genre. The series differs from American television in many prominent ways. “Jane the Virgin” utilizes many techniques and cliches from Spanish telenovelas, providing a truly unique experience for many American viewers.
Even more than twenty years after its release, “Selena” still holds a special place in hearts across the world. This biographical drama follows the life of singer-songwriter Selena Quintanilla. The film continues through Selena’s life as she discovers her love for singing and performing. Chen first watched “Selena” in middle school Spanish class.
“I liked the family aspect of the movie. It was cool that it introduced me to a different culture that I had never really experienced before,” Chen said.
In the film, Selena, played by Jennifer Lopez, faces many challenges as she tries to balance her connection to her Latinx heritage and her desire to produce American music. She faces racial discrimination from both sides of the Mexican-American border, forbidden love with her bandmate and familial struggles as she grows more and more famous.
A Netflix original, “Elite” follows the lives of three working-class teenagers who enroll in an exclusive private school. The show is set in Spain and produced in Spanish, but Netflix provides many resources, such as English subtitles and dubbed options, for audiences of all language backgrounds to enjoy. Sophomore arts administration major Alexander Bullock said he was a huge fan of foreign television and films.
“[One of the] Latinx TV productions that rank the highest for me currently is ‘Elite’,” Bullock said.
Bullock was impressed by the show’s diversity. Not only is it produced by an almost entirely Latinx cast, but it also includes storylines that feature LGBTQ characters and relationships.
“TV of this nature is very nice, as it is offering diversity,” Bullock added.
While providing a drama-filled storyline that eventually ends with murder, the show tackles important social issues such as financial discrimination, sexual orientation and navigating adolescence. Bullock praised the show and said that it was one of his favorite foreign film creations.
The month of September is a chance to acknowledge and celebrate Latinx culture across all mediums. So grab a blanket, make some popcorn and settle down into a comfy spot to enjoy these great films and TV shows created by Latinx artists.