10 essential films about the New Yorker latino
Summer in New York is sitting on a front porch somewhere while your neighbors open a fire hydrant. It’s hard to imagine the city coming back to life after suffering a polar vortex more than once this year. Since winter is always long and dark and gloomy and freezing and in case you forget what it’s like to feel feelings and see colors, here are 10 New York Latino Movies That Will Make You Wish You Were lean.
I like it like that
This New York film premiered at Cannes is a real who’s who of Latin celebrities of the 90s: Lauren Velez, John Seda, Rita Moreno, Jesse Borrego, etc. The film, set in the South Bronx, tells the story of a young mother of three (Velez) who learns to cope with the help of her trans sister (Borrego) after her husband (Seda) is put in prison. It’s a generally upbeat movie about Latino Americans going about their lives, which doesn’t seem to be getting done much these days. Additional points for the inclusion of a trans character in 1994.
Raising Victor Vargas
Raising Victor Vargas details the romantic weaknesses of a group of Lower East Side teenagers, with star actors Victor Rasuk and Melonie Diaz (both of whom will appear in a few years on How to do it in America.) After getting caught with Fat Donna, Victor sets out to rehabilitate his reputation by hanging out with Judy, the neighborhood hottie who has to be careful with who she ends up with. The whole movie is an ode to sitting, public swimming pools, thundering salsa, and teen lotharios.
Piñero, in case you didn’t know, was a slam poet and Tony-winning playwright who died in 1988 of cirrhosis. Between jail and drugs, Piñero developed a hell of a reputation for the rough, but even while he lived he was much better known for his fine words. Benjamin Bratt embodies this titular man with a cast completed by Giancarlo Esposito and Talisa Soto. An ode to a man whose veins were full of the Lower East Side.
Before Juan Bago, there was Orodito Balbuena, Luisito Martí’s goofy television potential immigrant, still struggling to get from the Dominican Republic to New York. This, however, is Balbuena’s first role in a feature film. Dreaming of making a quick buck in the United States before returning to the Dominican Republic, Balbuena mortgages her Dominican Republic home for a visa to the United States but, as is the case with these things, encounters setback after setback. once happened. Balancing broad humor with surprisingly real pathos, Nueba Yol is a great perspective on what it must be like to happen in New York.
In El Super, Roberto and Aurelia are a couple of Cuban exiles living in New York in 1978 with their daughter Aurelita, 17. Roberto is the titular superintendent, yearning for Cuba and discussing the Bay of Pigs while doing repairs and making sure the trash is out. It’s a funny and poignant look at the lives of Cuban exiles in New York City facing culture shock and loss.
Gloria La Morte, Paola Mendoza
Mariana (Paola Mendoza) followed her husband to New York after living alone in Colombia for years. Soon after his family arrives, Antonio announces that he has found a new job in Miami and is moving. The days go by and Mariana begins to run out of money. She leaves him messages but he doesn’t call back. It becomes clear that Antonio is gone for good and that Mariana has to take care of her children, alone. It’s no surprise that Mendoza’s performance was relatable, likable, and thoughtful. The film tells the story of her life and the role of Mariana is based on her own mother. It’s a film that shows exactly what New York can be: terrifying, overwhelming, and at times too much to bear but full of promise, opportunity, and new beginnings. It is a place where a nightmare situation can become an American dream come true. Between our is inspiring and uplifting, exactly what a movie should be.
Hangin ‘with the homeboys
Something many of you don’t remember is that before The Lord of the Rings, this is exactly the kind of movie that New Line Cinema buttered its bread with. But even if this one looks like a lowbrow comedy (you’ll start to get flashbacks to Plague) it’s a pretty solid role at the start of Leguizamo. His take on Johnny’s stutter is very different from his usual bombast in a movie that asks interesting questions about Nuyorican identity. Womanizer Fernando (Nestor Serrano) goes by Vinny and claims to be Italian for status… even, apparently, when he’s dating Latinas. As our four heroes leave the Bronx to cross Manhattan, their relationships are put to the test.
Don’t let me drown
Don’t let me drown a kind of spiritual successor to Raising Victor Vargas, is a teenage love story between Lalo (EJ Bonilla) and Stefanie (Gleendilys Inoa), two lost children who are trying to get back on their feet just a month after September 11. After meeting at a birthday party, the two begin to fall in love with each other, anchoring each other amid all the uncertainty and intense emotion. which accompanied the struggles of the city. While it can be hard to turn back on 9/11 at times, this funny and sweet movie might just be the best way to do it.
This is the film that earned Javier Bardem his first Oscar nomination, really putting him on the map here in the United States. Based on the autobiography of the same title by Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, the film details Arenas’ openly gay arrest for his sexuality, his possible escape to New York, his life there with his friend and partner, and her death as a victim of the AIDS crisis. Before nightfall is a beautiful film with a triumphant performance by Bardem – whom we love – and shows what living in New York City means to so many people.
West Side Story
Jérôme Robbins, Robert Wise
I needed more Rita Moreno on this list. Sue me. Sure, that ends with a few dead teenagers, sure that whitens most of the Puerto Rican characters, but come on – is there a movie more synonymous with being Latin in New York City?
A film adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet it changes the Montagues and the Capulets for the Jets (a mishmash of whites) and the Sharks (a gang of recent Puerto Rican immigrants), West Side Story is a classic Hollywood schmaltz festival.