12 Latinx Directors You Need to Know
Meet the filmmakers behind everything from 'Spy Kids' to 'La Mission' to 'The 33'
En español | While Latinx film talent remains grossly underrepresented on screen, most people know Mexico's Oscar-winning “Three Amigos of Cinema": Alfonso Cuarón (Roma, Gravity), Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant) and Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pan's Labyrinth). But there are more talented amigos where they came from, and beyond — and plenty of them are actually amigas. Here are a dozen more directors with unique stories to tell about Latinx heritage, perhaps destined for Oscars to come. Put them on your watchlist now!
Documentarian Almada's nonlinear documentaries are deeply influenced by her Mexican heritage, focusing on politics, immigration and drug trafficking. She was the first Latina filmmaker to win a MacArthur Fellowship, in 2012. Born in Sinaloa, Mexico, she moved to Chicago with her parents and is the granddaughter of former Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles, who was the subject of her Sundance award-winning film El General. Almada's observational and hauntingly wordless El Velador — about a Sinaloa cemetery housing many of the country's deceased drug lords — is evocative in its visual framing and striking sound design.
Natalia Almada Must Watch:
El Velador (The Night Watchman): Amazon Prime
Puerto Rico-born Arteta has deftly balanced his career between episodic television and indie films. His quirky comedy Chuck and Buck nabbed an Independent Spirit Award before Arteta moved to more dramatic turf with The Good Girl, a soulful suburban portrait of infidelity starring Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal. He has also directed episodes of Succession, American Horror Story and Grace and Frankie. His thought-provoking 2017 comedy-drama Beatriz at Dinner, a character-driven social satire about an outspoken Mexican immigrant (Salma Hayek) who faces off against a Trumplike businessman (John Lithgow) over dinner cleverly explores timely issues such as immigration, incivility and racism.
Miguel Arteta Must Watches:
The Good Girl: MSN Entertainment
Beatriz at Dinner: Amazon Prime
Bratt's films explore race, identity and culture, inspired by his Peruvian Quechua Indian ancestry. Bratt won the prestigious Norman Lear Writer's Award for writing and directing the grittily atmospheric drama La Mission, in which his actor brother Benjamin Bratt plays a macho ex-con who discovers his beloved son is gay. The setting was San Francisco's largely Latino Mission District, where the Bratt brothers grew up. His most recent film is his most famous, 2017's Dolores, the compelling, award-winning documentary about the overlooked contributions of 90-year-old sociopolitical activist/union organizer Dolores Huerta.
Peter Bratt Must Watches:
La Mission: Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, YouTube, Google Play
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The first Latina to receive a Sundance award and a Student Academy Award, Patricia Cardoso is a Colombian-American writer-director-producer. She directed 2002's Real Women Have Curves, a warmhearted dramedy starring America Ferrera, which has become a landmark of Latinx cinema. This story of a Mexican-American teenager who receives a scholarship to an Ivy League college was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry and named “a cinematic treasure.” Celebrating the beauty of not being stick-thin, it was also chosen by Entertainment Weekly as “one of the most influential films of the 2000s.” Cardoso has since directed several TV episodes, including Tales of the City and Emergence, and was tapped by Ava DuVernay to direct an episode of the series Queen Sugar.
Patricia Cardoso Must Watch:
Real Women Have Curves: HBO Max, Amazon Prime
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Reinaldo Marcus Green
Green has said he wanted to provoke discussion with his visually stylish debut film Monsters and Men, about the aftermath of a police killing of an unarmed black man, which stars John David Washington and Kelvin Harrison Jr. It won the Special Jury Award for outstanding first feature at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and also three Imagen Awards. The black Puerto Rican filmmaker is currently editing Good Joe Bell, starring Mark Wahlberg and Connie Britton and coproduced by Jake Gyllenhaal. He will soon begin work on a biopic about Richard Williams, father of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams.
Reinaldo Marcus Green Must Watch:
Monsters and Men: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play
Writer-director Guerrero's first full-length feature Mosquita Y Mari is a Chicana coming-of-age story that explores an affectionate friendship between a pair of 15-year-old girls growing up in immigrant households in L.A. It played at more than 100 film festivals, winning 10 awards. The New York Times called it “an unassuming indie jewel.” Guerrero, a queer-identifying Chicana from California, has also directed an episode of Queen Sugar, as well as two episodes apiece of Netflix's 13 Reasons Why and Gentefied. Guerrero also assisted director Cardoso on Real Women Have Curves.
Aurora Guerrero Must Watches:
Mosquita Y Mari: Amazon Prime, iTunes
Gigi Saul Guerrero
A mere 30, Guerrero is one of the top emerging directors in the horror genre. In 2019 Variety selected her as one of 10 Latinxs to watch. The Mexican-Canadian filmmaker was only 27 when she came into the spotlight for creating and directing the 2017 horror web series La Quinceanera. Born in Mexico City, Guerrero grew up in British Columbia, where she watched the director's cut of The Exorcist in a theater at the tender age of 9. She has since written a video game and directed episodes of the anthology horror series, The Purge and Into the Dark. She recently signed with Screen Gems to direct a studio feature based on the mythology of Santa Muerte.
Gigi Saul Guerrero Must Watches:
The Purge anthology series: "Hail Mary” episode: USA Network
Into the Dark anthology series: “Culture Shock” episode: Hulu
Ibarra's latest film, The Infiltrators, is a mesmerizing documentary in which several courageous young Dreamers turn themselves in to be sent to a federal detention facility and help their fellow undocumented immigrants from the inside. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Ibarra grew up in El Paso, Texas, and her previous documentary Las Marthas is about a tradition in which debutantes from both sides of the US/Mexico border commemorate George Washington's birthday. She is currently working on Love & Monster Trucks, a feature about a Chicana artist who seeks to escape her family of truck-obsessed Texans.
Cristina Ibarra Must Watches:
The Infiltrators: Amazon Prime
Las Marthas: PBS
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The newbie of the group, the Mexican-born Iga directed a recent drive-in hit called Murder in the Woods, in which a group of college friends discover the dark secret of a mysterious isolated vacation cabin. Danny Trejo costars in this indie horror film, and Iga helms a young, diverse cast in nonstereotypical roles. For those who enjoy a good scary thriller with comic moments as escapist fare, this dark indie is worth seeking out.
Luis Iga Must Watch:
Murder in the Woods: Select drive-ins and streaming services
Veteran writer/director/producer Greg Nava is a godfather figure to Latinx filmmakers. His visually stunning, Oscar-nominated film El Norte is 37 years old and still timely. It remains one of the best American films addressing the plight of undocumented immigrants. El Norte — which follows the journey of Guatemalan siblings who emigrate to California — was called “The Grapes of Wrath for our time” by Roger Ebert. Nava's 1995 Mi Familia tells the story of an immigrant Mexican couple and their children, and marked the debut of a then-unknown actress named Jennifer Lopez, whom Nava later cast as the title character in 1997's Selena, about the Tex-Mex singer Selena Quintanilla. Nava has been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Writers Guild award, and his films have been honored at the Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Telluride festivals.
Gregory Nava Must Watches:
El Norte: HBO Max, Google Play, YouTube
Selena: HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube
The Guadalajara-born Riggen has directed films in both Spanish and English, the most recent being The 33, a fascinating 2015 biopic about the workers trapped underground for two months in a Chilean mine, starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro and Juliette Binoche. She also directed Under the Same Moon, a moving drama about a young Mexican boy who illegally travels to the U.S. to find his mother, starring Eugenio Derbez and Kate Del Castillo. Most recently Riggen has helmed episodes of TV's Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and Proven Innocent, and is developing a biopic about Antonio Vivaldi.
Patricia Riggen Must Watches:
Under the Same Moon: Amazon Prime, Starz, Hulu, Google Play, YouTube
The 33: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Google Play, YouTube
Though he famously lives in Austin, this auteur shoots and produces many of his movies in Mexico, along with his native Texas. He launched his film career in 1992 with the micro-budget western El Mariachi, which became a commercial success. That indie led to a pair of sequels, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, both starring Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas. His 1996 hit From Dusk Till Dawn, in which a pair of criminals meet up at a truck stop filled with vampires, starred Hayek and George Clooney, and formed the inspiration for a series Rodriguez developed with Quentin Tarantino on Netflix. His 2010 film Machete features frequent collaborator Danny Trejo, and his Spy Kids franchise was a huge commercial hit. Rodriguez has also jumped genres to direct music videos for Lady Gaga, ZZ Top and Demi Lovato.
Robert Rodriguez Must Watches:
From Dusk Till Dawn (the film): Amazon Prime, HBO Max
From Dusk Till Dawn (the series): Netflix
Spy Kids: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube