In Latin America, the LGBT community has faced significant prejudice and violence. Latin American film has represented these conflicts, offering visibility to dissident sexualities. Some iconic examples include Kiss of the Spider Woman (Argentina), Pixote (Brazil), Dona Herlinda and Her Son (Brazil), and Strawberry and Chocolate (Cuba). Since those films were released, new alternative film circuits have been created. Festivals like “Outfest Peru,” “El Ciclo de Cine de la Diversidad” (Venezuela), “Asterisco” (Argentina), and “Diverso Festival Internacional de Cine LGBT de Panamá” promote international LGBT movies, amplifying their themes, characters, and styles. Through lesbian and transgender characters, new movies represent the LGBT community beyond just gay men. Directors like John Petrizzelli, Daniel Ribeiro, Lorenzo Vigas, and Davi Pretto have made films that promote acceptance of all sexualities. Here are 10 Latin American LGBT movies from the 21stcentury that you need to watch.
1. Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho (“The Way He Looks”, Brazil, 2014)
Leonardo is a gay and blind teenager. While trying to free himself from his overprotective mother, he ends up falling for Gabriel, the new kid at school. This heartwarming coming-of-age film directed by Daniel Ribeiro presents the difficulties of growing up with more than one differentiating characteristic.
2. Desde Allá (From Afar, Venezuela, 2015)
Winner of the Golden Lion Award for Best Film, this movie directed by Lorenzo Vigas depicts Armando, a middle-aged gay man who pays young men for company. He meets Elder, a teenager with whom he develops a special intimacy. Despite Armando’s haunted past, their affection for each other grows into a relationship.
3. Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman, Chile, 2017)
Winner of the Oscar for best foreign language film, this Chilean drama directed by Sebastián Lelio features actress Daniela Vega as a transgender woman working as a waitress and nightclub singer. She faces bigotry after the death of her lover, preventing her from mourning this loss.
4. XXY (Argentina, 2007)
This film by director Lucía Puenzo explores the life of a 15-year-old intersex individual named Alex, who lives as a girl and suppresses masculine characteristics through medication. Wanting her to conform to gender norms, her mother wants her to have sex reassignment surgery. When Alex gets involved with the surgeon’s son, she is forced to face difficult questions about her identity.
5. Castanha (Brazil, 2014)
Davi Pretto’s documentary feature tells the story of João Carlos Castanha, a fifty-two-year-old actor who lives with his seventy-two-year-old mother. João performs as a cross-dresser in gay bars, also taking small parts in plays, movies, and TV shows. Tormented by his past, he lives a complex life that is part reality, part fiction.
6. Mala Mala (Bad, Bad, Puerto Rico, 2014)
This pioneering documentary film directed by Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles tells the stories of trans-identifying people and drag queens. Recognized at the Tribeca Film Festival, it features Ivana, an activist; Soraya, a sex-change pioneer; Sandy, a prostitute; and two individuals looking to transition, Samantha and Paxx.
7. Pelo Malo (Bad Hair, Venezuela, 2013)
Winner at international film festivals, this film directed by Mariana Rondón tells the story of Junior, a nine-year-old living in Caracas, Venezuela with his widowed mother. His mother suspects he is gay but is preoccupied with raising two children, while his grandmother nurtures him. This fresh perspective demonstrates the complexity of young self-exploration.
8. Contracorriente (Undertow, Peru, 2009)
Through a rare, empathetic portrayal of adultery, this movie directed by Javier Fuentes-León explores the story of a character who is in love with two people. One is his wife Mariela, who is pregnant with his baby. The other is Santiago, his male lover. Miguel’s situation is presented in a manner that generates sympathy for him despite his infidelity.
9. El Niño Pez (The Fish Child, Argentina, 2009)
From director Lucía Puenzo, El Niño Pez is the story of Lala, a teenager who is in love with her family’s maid, Ailin. When they get involved in a murder case, the pair decides to flee to Paraguay. But their plans fall through, and they must find an alternative. Featuring lesbians fighting patriarchy, the film was nominated for ten Argentinian Oscars.
10. Cuatro Lunas (Four Moons, Mexico, 2014)
This drama directed by Sergio Tovar Velarde narrates the stories of four men: an 11-year-old boy who is obsessed with his male cousin, two old friends who begin a secret relationship, a man who creates a love triangle by interfering with two lovers, and an older man who saves up to be with a male prostitute for the night.
*Text and list by Grace Evan Fletcher.