12 Movies Spotlighting The Queer Experience In Latin America

FILMBy 2024-06-25T16:59:20-04:00November 26th, 2022|
  • Una Mujer Fantastica (2017). Directed by Sebastial Lelio. Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics

From Mexico to Chile, films centered on queer narratives have had a long and complicated journey into mainstream cinema. Censorships, politics and prejudice are all obstacles for the the genre, particularly in Latin America, where LGBTQ+ individuals are largely underrepresented in all media.

In this list, we’ve selected six films that highlight the queer experience in Latin communities and how Latin America’s political and societal divisions play into these experiences.

Y Tú Mamá También (2001)

“Y Tú Mamá También” follows two teenage boys and an older woman driving throughout Mexico on a journey of sexual self-discovery and actualized desire. Alfonso Cuarón delivers a portrait that illustrates the spirit of unbridled youth. He brilliantly captures the freedom of summer and the playfulness of eroticism, while simultaneously scrutinizing the class inequities of Mexico in the early 2000s. But, more than anything, “Y Tú Mamá También” is a raw coming-of-age story, teeming with sexuality and wide-eyed lust for the future.

Available to stream on: Amazon and iTunes.

Una Mujer Fantástica (2017)

This film centers on the struggles of a transgender woman living in Santiago, seeking to gain acceptance and recognition in a world rife with transphobia. Throughout the film, the protagonist receives the treatment of a second-class citizen. She is constantly misgendered and even barred from grieving the death of a romantic interest. Shot in various styles of cinematography, at times terrifyingly realistic, others surreal, “Una Mujer Fantástica” tenderly and poetically sketches this sense of grief and estrangement.

Available to stream on: Amazon and iTunes.

Fresa y Chocolate (1993)

Set in Cuba under Castrist rule, a hypermasculine political regime led by Fidel Castro that persecuted members of the LGBTQ community and censored dissident artists, “Fresa y Chocolate” details the story of a gay artist and a spy. Within this story of deceit and confusion, this film explores the complicated process of reconciliation: political extremes convene, and enemies become friends.

Available to stream on: Youtube.

Happy Together (1997)

Directed by Hong Kong-based filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, “Happy Together” relates the story of a couple drifting in and out of love, violently and languidly, while visiting and eventually overstaying in Argentina. In a film full of intimate embraces, sultry tangos, and solitary tears, Kar-wai explores the pains and joys of both love and alienation with aching beauty.

Available to stream on: Criterion and HBO Max.

Retablo (2017)

This film displays a relationship between father and son — once defined through their shared craft of devotional tableaus — jeopardized when the son encounters his father in an illicit sexual encounter with another man. “Retablo” is a film that gracefully depicts absence and silence. This film beautifully displays what is invisible on the surface, exploring themes of secrecy, internalized shame, and the implicit existence of homophobia.

Available to stream on: Amazon, Tubi, Kanopy, Youtube, and iTunes.

The Way He Looks (2014)

“The Way He Looks” tells the coming-of-age story of a blind Brazilian teen. It is a narrative of untainted love, where affection lacks the pressures of stress and isolation. The central, relatable relationship is, in a word, heartwarming, with each scene between them pure and delicate. Like its most memorable image, that of two boys smiling and riding a bike into the sunset, “The Way He Looks” almost overwhelms you with its beauty.

Available to stream on: Amazon, Kanopy, and iTunes.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2022)

Based on the acclaimed novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” follows the transformative journey of two Mexican-American boys in 1987 El Paso. The film captures their bond as they navigate identity, family, and love. Through the lens of Aristotle and Dante’s evolving relationship, the film explores the complexities of self-discovery and acceptance with poignant sensitivity and youthful tenderness.

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play.

I Carry You with Me (2020)

“I Carry You with Me” is a heartfelt blend of documentary and narrative storytelling, chronicling the true story of Iván and Gerardo, whose love affair spans decades and countries. Directed by Heidi Ewing, the film starts in Mexico and follows the couple’s journey as they face societal barriers and the challenges of immigration. It beautifully captures the sacrifices and enduring love that define their relationship, presenting a deeply personal narrative with universal resonance.

Available to stream on: Starz, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.

Cassandro (2023)

Directed by Roger Ross Williams, “Cassandro” tells the real-life story of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rises to international stardom after creating the flamboyant character Cassandro. The film delves into themes of identity, resilience, and the breaking of traditional gender norms in the world of lucha libre. With a performance that is as powerful as it is tender, “Cassandro” showcases the transformative power of embracing one’s true self.

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Extra Terrestres (2016)

Directed by Carla Cavina, “Extra Terrestres” is a Puerto Rican-Venezuelan sci-fi drama that centers on Teresa, an astrophysicist who returns to her conservative family in Puerto Rico after many years away. The film artfully intertwines themes of identity, familial expectations, and hidden truths, exploring the tensions that arise when personal secrets come to light. “Extra Terrestres” captivates with its delicate balance of scientific wonder and human emotion.

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime and YouTube.

The Fish Child (2009)

Directed by Lucía Puenzo, “The Fish Child” is an Argentinian-Uruguayan thriller that tells the story of Lala, a young girl from a wealthy Buenos Aires family, and her maid, Ailin. As their secret love affair is threatened by societal norms and a tragic incident, they plan to escape to Ailin’s hometown in Paraguay. This film masterfully blends romance and suspense, exploring themes of class disparity, forbidden love, and the quest for freedom.

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and YouTube.

Suddenly (2002)

Diego Lerman’s “Suddenly” is an Argentine drama that follows the unexpected journey of Marcia, a timid lingerie salesgirl, who is abducted by two punkish young women, Mao and Lenin. As they travel across Argentina, what begins as a forced adventure gradually transforms into a profound exploration of freedom, friendship, and self-discovery. The film’s raw, intimate style captures the spontaneous beauty and vulnerability of human connections.

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Kanopy.

Updated on June 11th, 2024