Sofia’s Top Ten List

After a couple of months, I have finished my first expedition through Latin America and 54 of their most representative movies. I have so enjoyed this experience and it is definitely not over. I plan to translate these articles into Spanish and then start another project so I can delve even further into Latin American cinema. In the meantime, I hope that if you don’t have time to watch all 54 films like I did, then you will at least watch the 10 that I list below. These films are some of the most worthwhile, exciting, and touching films that Latin America or even the world has to offer.

10. La Nación Clandestina (1989)

Told through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, La Nación Clandestina tells the story of an Aymara man, Sebastian, who returns to his village in order to perform his final death dance, and his tumultuous life is revealed as he journeys home. This is one of the most unique films because it does not only focus on indigenous people and issues but it does so through an indigenous structure. The film is based on the native Andean idea of “naupaj mapuni” which translates to “looking into the past and the future at one and the same time”. The film is therefore a nonlinear telling of the history of this man’s life, both his failures and his triumphs. Not only that, but it is also a story of Bolivia in the 20th century.

His life story lines up with the major events that marked a tumultuous and violent period in the country’s history. Still, with all the tragedy, it remains a celebration of the vibrant and colorful indigenous culture in Bolivia. As the crowning achievement of Bolivia’s most prolific auteur, Jorge Sanjines, it remains a must-see.

Read my full analysis here.

9. La Ciénaga (1999)

This movie is the definition of a slow burn. There isn’t a lot of action, plot, or dialogue but the characters haunt you. Nowhere can you see such an apt portrayal of a decaying bourgeoisie in a country on the brink of economic collapse. The film starts with Mecha, a bourgeois Argentine woman, who, while sunbathing with her friends at her home in Salta, drunkenly falls and cuts her chest. Mecha becomes bedridden after the incident and from then on there are no major events. Lucrecia Martel, one of the most celebrated Argentine directors, finds power in silences and shows us just how close to animals we can become if we’re not careful.

Not only does Martel critique the bourgeoisie, but she takes vital hits at religion which in her mind serves as a distraction for the poor. For a near-silent but edge-of-your-seat cinema that deals with the issues many contemporary Latin Americans face, this is the film to see.

Read my full analysis here.

8. 7 Boxes (2012)

Of all the films on the list, I have to say this one is by far the most exciting movie on here. It has classic action thriller elements with more personal and realistic, albeit drastic, stakes. 7 Boxes tells the story of Victor, a young man who works at the Mercado 4 in Asuncion and has dreams of being on the big screen. When he is given the job of transporting 7 boxes for $100 (USD) he takes it, but things prove to be much more complicated and Victor becomes enveloped in a criminal web of lies. It’s pure popcorn entertainment with uniquely Paraguayan aspects to the story. It celebrates the diversity of a very bilingual Asuncion.

Most people in the film switch in and out of Spanish and Guarani. The film also spotlights the growing Korean population in the city. The film also puts a spotlight on issues ranging from rising out of poverty to the cost of fame. With all the different stories and perspectives making up the final product, it is impossible to be bored.

Read my full analysis here.

7. The Milk of Sorrow (2009)

Another of Latin America’s most celebrated women directors, Claudia Llosa shocked and inspired the world when she made this intimate, surreal portrait of a young indigenous woman. The Milk of Sorrow tells the story of Fausta who is afflicted by an illness passed through the breastmilk of women who have been raped during pregnancy. Because of this, Fausta lives in a constant state of fear but when her mother dies she has to face these challenges in order to break the cycle. The film gets at the root of what it is like to experience generational trauma and the privilege that comes with individual memory over collective memory.

Llosa’s examination of this woman’s anxiety in the context of a wider problem in the aftermath of a civil war period in Peru is revelatory and her use of music offers a haunting oratory for the past. Without a doubt, the performances and honest portrayal of trauma and fear make this film unforgettable.

Read my full analysis here.

6. Juan of the Dead (2011)

Of all the movies I watched, this one has to be the most fun and easily accessible one. Juan of the Dead starts when zombies take over Havana. The government claims that they are US dissidents, but Juan and his friends don’t buy it. Juan decides to capitalize on the moment and create a company that kills the loved ones of Havana residents. If you love zombie movies, then this one has to be a must-see because it makes the genre extremely political but still manages to retain the fun nature of the genre. Its criticisms of the Cuban state as well as the foreign tourists who populate Havana are biting and witty. More importantly for me, it gets at the root of what a lot of Cubans today feel.

Though many are disappointed with the revolution, it doesn’t mean they are on the side of Miami. Everyone gets taken down a peg in this film.

Read my full analysis here.

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