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9 Latin- And Hispanic-Helmed Films To Keep An Eye On This Oscars Season

The Oscars prognosticating has begun — and these films with Latin and Hispanic writers, directors, actors, and cinematographers belong in the conversation.

Earlier this year, The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California released a study that found Latin directors helmed a measly four percent of the 100 top-grossing films during the years 2007 to 2018, while only three percent featured Latin actors in lead or co-lead roles. This is a disappointing, but ultimately not surprising, statistic at odds with the nation's present-day diversity. (For reference, Latin people were 18.1 percent of the population as of 2017, according to the same study.)

On the heels of the Mexico-born director Alfonso Cuarón's directing and cinematography win for Roma, we're taking a look at some of the buzziest Latin and hispanic-helmed films that belong in the Oscars conversation this fall.

1. Hustlers

STFX Films

Perhaps the most buzzed-about film to show at the Toronto Film Festival this year was Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers — and that was in no small part due to J-Lo's commanding performance as Ramona, a seasoned stripper who runs a New York City scamming ring preying on greedy Wall Street clientele. It's based on the viral New York magazine article written in 2015 by Jessica Pressler.

With its (massive!) September release, the 50-year-old actress is already receiving some of the highest praise of her acting career thus far. Will it be enough to secure her first-ever nomination? Early critical consensus seems to suggest yes — and that a win isn't totally out of the picture, either. Much of this will come down to whether she is pushed in the supporting or lead category (good time to revisit some reading on category fraud?). However this pans out on Jan 13, in our hearts, she has already taken home the award for Best Strip-Tease To a Fiona Apple Song.

In theaters now. (Watch the official trailer here.)

2. Gloria Bell


The Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's English-language remake of his own 2013 film Gloria still has some momentum from its early summer release, and hopefully it's enough to bring it into the voting months. (A24 come through!) His previous masterpiece, A Fantastic Woman, which followed a transgender woman (Daniela Vega) navigating life in the wake of her boyfriend's sudden death, won the coveted Foreign Language Film of the Year for Chile. This time around, Lelio's best chances will be with Julianne Moore (Actress In a Leading Role) for her complex performance as a middle-aged divorcee who spends her days dancing at clubs, leaving voicemails on her childrens' phones, and casually dipping her toes into the dating scene. (On a more personal note: I was so enraptured by this movie I almost forgot that there was a literal rat scampering around the theater. New York, baybee.)

Lelio, who cowrote the script with Alice Johnson Boher and Gonzalo Maza, could also make a play for Adapted Screenplay, which, at present, remains a pretty wide-open category. (Though, let's just call it now: Greta Gerwig will be among the nominees.)

Available for streaming on: Amazon and YouTube. (Watch the official trailer here.)

3. Monos


Is the Colombian-Ecuadorian director Alejandro Landes’s latest Spanish-language thriller "Apocalypse Now on 'shrooms," "Lord of the Flies with guerrilla warfare," "Kids with bloodthirsty, horned-up child soldiers," or all of the above? Whatever it is, reviewers are in pretty unanimous agreement that the film is a success. It even picked up a Special Jury Award at Sundance last February.

In it, Julianne Nicholson plays an American engineer held captive by a group of teenage soldiers in a Colombian jungle. Their motives remain unclear throughout, while a "distinct, emotional and atemporal" score from the brilliant Mica Levi (Jackie, Under the Skin) heighten this tension. The film was Colombia’s official entry for Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Language Film). The country's last nomination in this category was back in 2015 with Ciro Guerra's Embrace of the Serpent. Monos shouldn't be boxed into international categories though — this spare screenplay written alongside Alexis Dos Santos might have a chance to break through.

In theaters now. (Watch the official trailer here.)

4. Pain and Glory

Sony Pictures

Fresh out of Cannes, Pain and Glory (starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz) is being called "the best Pedro Almodovar movie in years" — quite an achievement considering the prolific Spanish director has been steadily churning out critically acclaimed, neon-saturated films since the turn of the millennium. His work on 2002's Talk To Her, for example, earned him a directing nomination and a win for original screenplay; his genre-bending work on 2006's Volver, was a vehicle for Penélope Cruz to earn her first-ever acting nomination.

Pain and Glory is Almodóvar at his most autobiographical — a film "which amounts to a stylized summary of his life and work," writes Jonathan Holland for The Hollywood Reporter. Antonio Banderas, who is gaining Oscars attention of his own, plays an aging, creatively blocked filmmaker grappling with depression. This darkness is juxtaposed against the signature bright stylings of cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and production designer Antxón Gómez.

Release date: Oct 4. (Watch the official trailer here.)

5. The Two Popes


Praised at Telluride for being a "triumph of writing" and a showcase of "exceptional acting," The Two Popes is a Catholic church buddy flick (yes, a thing!) featuring Instagram God Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict XVI and his successor, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, respectively.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles was last honored by the Academy with a nomination for his directing on City of God while Anthony McCarten, credited for the screenplay here, has been previously nominated for his writing on Theory of Everything. The Two Popes is starting to pop up on a handful of experts' prediction lists for Best Picture on Gold Derby so don't rule this one out for the top prize — in addition to acting (Pryce for lead, Hopkins for supporting), directing, and writing categories. Scott Feinberg prognosticates that The Two Popes could have a similar trajectory as Green Book. "During dark times, sometimes people like their 'important' movies to come with a smile and a laugh," he notes.

Release date: Nov 21. (Watch the official trailer here.)

6. Everybody Changes


Panama was the first Latin American country to submit an entry for consideration in the Oscars's international category this year. That film was Arturo Montenegro's Everybody Changes, a family drama about a father of three children who comes out as transgender. This film comes at a time when Panama's LGBT community is still fighting for visibility and recognition by the government. Only last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights made a landmark ruling that requiring transgender people to undergo surgery to change their legal gender should be classified as a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Panama has previously submitted five times for this category, though none have ultimately scored a nomination for the country.

Release date: US theatrical TBA. (Watch the official trailer here.)

7. The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão

Sony Pictures

This film from Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz walked away with a prestigious Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes this year, and it is also Brazil's official submission for the international category. (Brazil has not been featured in the international category since Central Station in 1998.)

Guy Lodge, who reported from Cannes for Variety, described the film as a "ravishing period saga [that] lives up to the description [of 'tropical melodrama'] — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de Janeiro." The film was adapted from the 2015 debut novel by Martha Batalha of the same name which showed up on a dozen "must-read" lists that fall.

Release date: Oct 31. (Watch the official trailer here.)

8. The Irishman


No, we're not talking about Martin Scorsese, the director helming this forthcoming Netflix mobster flick. (Who I'm sure we'll be talking about plenty come nomination day.) The real man of the hour is Rodrigo Prieto, the acclaimed Mexican cinematographer Oscar-nominated for his dazzling work on Brokeback Mountain, Silence, and now, hopefully, The Irishman. His other impressive work has included Wolf of Wall Street, Argo, and — yes, I'll say it! — Lana Del Rey's "Blue Jeans" music video.

The Irishman will open the New York Film Festival on Sept 27, shockingly the first time in its 56-year history Scorsese has opened. For now, we have only the strength of the prolific director, cinematographer, and Netflix's stamp of approval to go off of.

Release date: Nov 1 theatrical; Nov 27 via Netflix. (Watch the official trailer here.)

9. The Projectionist

Tabula Rasa Films

José María Cabral's film hit the Miami Film Festival in March and also became the first Dominican film to screen at Sundance ever. While, sure, its themes can be neatly filed in the camp of "nostalgic for the days of pre-digital cinema," early reviews indicate it is a far cry from your typical cinephile film. "Cabral pulls together various strands, including rural drama, road movie and noir, to create something distinctive and thoughtful that satisfyingly darkens and intensifies as things proceed," Holland writes.

The story follows a lonely man who operates a projector and becomes fixated on an unknown woman captured on film. When his reels are destroyed in an accident, he realizes he must track her down, even if that means searching the most remote parts of the Dominican Republic. This is the Dominican Republic's official submission for International Feature Film. Cabral's previous work Check Mate was submitted in 2002, though it did not make the short list of nominees.

Release date: US theatrical TBA. (Watch a teaser here.)

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BuzzFeed/Charlotte Gomez

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