Documentary Feature Films

Below are all of the Documentary features films (alphabetical order) to be screened March 12-22 at 27th San Diego Latino Film Festival.

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A Crushing Love: Chicanas, Motherhood, and Activism
Dir. Sylvia Morales
(United States, 58 min., 2009, English, Activism) 
A Crushing Love, Sylvia Morales’ sequel to her groundbreaking documentary of Chicana women, Chicana (1979), honors the achievements of five activist Latinas—labor organizer/farm worker leader Dolores Huerta, author/educator Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, writer/playwright/educator Cherrie Moraga, civil rights advocate Alicia Escalante, and historian/writer Martha Cotera –and considers how these single mothers managed to be parents and effect broad-based social change at the same time. ¡Viva La Raza! Chicano/a Films Showcase.

After the Earthquake
Dir. Lourdes Portillo 
(United States, 23 min., 1979, Spanish w/ English subtitles; English, Activism)
This story follows a young Nicaraguan immigrant Irene, as she faces the challenges of life in the U.S. and re-evaluates her relationships with her boyfriend and family. After the Earthquake explores the immigrant experience, particularly the cultural, political, and economic differences between life in North and Latin America. ¡Viva La Raza! Chicano/a Films Showcase.

Bakosó: AfroBeats de Cuba
Dir. Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi
(Cuba / United States, 50 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
What does “Está Rico ” by Marc Anthony, Will Smith & Bad Bunny have in common with “Made For Now” by Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee? They both high-jacked AfroBeats and did not give the genre’s origin props. Bakosó is a film that does the opposite, following DJ Jigüe to his hometown of Santiago de Cuba to find inspiration from the new sounds. He finds Afrobeats has helped create a new genre called Bakosó, which itself is beautiful proof that the exchange between Cuba and Africa did not end with the Transatlantic slave trade. Through stunning visuals and a score created by the founders of the genre, the film shows the technology, culture and landscape that shape this African-Caribbean fusion. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase. 

Birth Wars
Dir. Janet Jarman
(Mexico, 73 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Told through deeply personal stories in the trenches of the healthcare sector, Birth Wars chronicles a power struggle between doctors and midwives in Mexico about whose vision of childbirth should prevail. The film takes viewers on a journey into two worlds riven by prejudices and antagonism, and explores how building bridges between these worlds could help save lives. ¡Viva Mujeres! Films Showcase.

Border South
Dir. Raúl O. Paz-Pastrana
(United States / Mexico, 83 min., 2019, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Immigration)
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly from Central America, pass through Mexico every year on their way to the U.S. southern border. To stem the immigration tide, Mexico and the U.S. collaborate to crack down on migrants. Filmmaker Raúl O. Paz Pastrana spent four years following migrant routes from southern Mexico to the Mexico-United States border. The result is a close-up, nuanced, and highly original view of the migrant experience; one fraught with risk and danger but also comradery, ingenuity,  and humor. Also profiled is the Undocumented Migration Project, an effort to collect and catalog artifacts left behind by migrants in the Arizona desert speaking powerfully on behalf of those who seek a better life at an almost unbearable cost. Immigration Films Showcase.

Building the American Dream 
Dir. Chelsea Hernandez
(United States, 73 min., 2019, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Social justice)
Across Texas, an unstoppable construction boom drives urban sprawl and luxury high-rises with its dirty secret: abuse of immigrant labor. Building the American Dream captures a turning point as a movement forms to fight widespread construction industry injustices. Grieving their son, a Mexican family campaign for a life-and-death safety ordinance; A Salvadorian electrician couple owed thousands in back pay fights for their children’s future; A bereaved son battles to protect others from his family’s preventable tragedy. A story of courage, resilience, and community, the film reveals shocking truths about the hardworking immigrants who build the American Dream, of which they are excluded. Latino Public Broadcasting Films Showcase.

La casa de Wannsee
Dir. Poli Martinez Kaplun
(Argentina, 70 min., 2020, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
When her son decides to have a Bar Mitzvah despite her family not adhering to Jewish traditions, director Poli Ramirez Kaplun decides to start digging into her family’s past. Generations of family secrets are uncovered in this sweeping international story that begins with the Second World War and concludes with an emotional 21st century revelation. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Dir. Sylvia Morales 
(USA, 23 min., 1979, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Activism) 
Chicana traces the history of Chicana and Mexican women from pre-Columbian times to the present. It covers women’s role in Aztec society, their participation in the 1810 struggle for Mexican independence, their involvement in the US labor strikes in 1872, their contributions to the 1910 Mexican Revolution and their leadership in contemporary civil rights causes. Using murals, engravings, and historical footage, this documentary shows how women have become an active and vocal part of the political and work-life in both Mexico and the United States. ¡Viva La Raza! Chicano/a Films Showcase.

Dirs. Jaime Murciego, Pablo Iraburu
(Spain, 80 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Five Bolivian indigenous women are involved in a unique expedition. As a symbol of liberation and empowerment, they propose to climb the highest mountain in America. They are more than climbers, they are brave women who find in the mountain a space to feel free, happy and alive. Their adventure will show the world an inspiring way to be a woman, to live tradition, and to relate to Mother Nature. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Dear Homeland
Dir. Claudia Escobar
(United States, 57 min., 2020, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Dear Homeland tells the story of Mexican singer/songwriter Diana Gameros coming of age in the United States while finding her voice as an artist. Told in large part through her hauntingly beautiful music, her 20-year journey takes her from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to San Francisco, California, where we watch Diana assert herself as not only a musician but as an immigrant and an advocate for immigrant rights. Through music, she finds the courage to share her own story of being undocumented —channeling her fears and the weight of her separation from her family into powerful songs. Immigration Films Showcase.

The Devil Never Sleeps (Note: this is a FREE screening at SDSU. Email: for details)
Dir. Lourdes Portillo
(United States / Mexico, 82 min., 1996, Spanish w/ English subtitles; English, Crime)
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lourdes Portillo mines the complicated intersections of analysis and autobiography, evidence and hypothesis, even melodrama and police procedures in this ground-breaking work. Early one Sunday morning, the filmmaker receives a phone call informing her that her beloved Tio Oscar Ruiz Almeida has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in Chihuahua, Mexico.  The filmmaker returns to the land of her birth to investigate her uncle’s identity and death. Finding clues in old tales of betrayal, lust, and supernatural visitation, Portillo blends traditional and experimental techniques to capture the nuances of Mexican social and family order. ¡Viva La Raza! Chicano/a Films Showcase.

Diego Maradona
Dir. Asif Kapadia
(United Kingdom, 130 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles; English, Sports)
From Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia, HBO Sports presents the extraordinary story of Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona, the most celebrated and polarizing player of his generation. This intimate documentary features never-before-seen footage from Maradona’s personal archive. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Eliades Ochoa: De Cuba y para el mundo
Dir. Cynthia Biestek
(Mexico / Cuba / France / United States, 100 min., 2019, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Music Documentary)
He became known in the world over in the late 90s as an original member of legendary Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, but Eliades Ochoa’s passion for his country’s musical heritage led him to pursue a life dedicated to music much earlier than that: he began by playing his guitar in the streets of Eastern Cuba, then joined a slew of folk groups, until finally, the success of Buena Vista Social Club came along. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase. 

Work In Progress Sneak Preview: Fandango at the Wall 
Dir. Varda Bar-Kar
(United States / Mexico, 93 min., 2020, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Music documentary)
Fandango at the Wall follows Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra founder/conductor Arturo O’Farrill to the remotest regions of Veracruz, Mexico, where he meets and jams with the masters of son jarocho. Son jarocho is 300-year-old folk music rooted in the land that combines African, Indigenous and Spanish traditions. After Arturo’s inspiring journey to a place where time seems to stands still, he and his orchestra join the masters of son jarocho at the border between the United States and Mexico for a son jarocho music and dance festival called Fandango Fronterizo (founded by Jorge Francisco Castillo). The festival takes place simultaneously on the Mexico-United States border, transforming this object that divides to one that unites. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase. 

The First Rainbow Coalition
Dir. Ray Santisteban
(USA, 56 min., 2019, English, Activism)
The First Rainbow Coalition charts the history and legacy of a groundbreaking multi-ethnic coalition that rocked Chicago in the 1960s. Comprised of activists from the Black Panthers, the Young Patriots (southern whites), and the Young Lords (a former Puerto Rican street gang), Chicago’s Rainbow Coalition (1969-1971) united poor blacks, whites, and Latinos to openly challenge police brutality and substandard housing in one of the most segregated cities in America. What began as a drive to achieve a voice for poor communities quickly grew into a formidable political movement, attracting the support of other disenfranchised groups and the attention of a threatened FBI and Chicago political machine. Revoluciones Films Showcase.

¡Gaytino! Made in America
Dir. Dan Guerrero
(USA, 75 min., 2019, English, Musical Dramedy)
Mariachi to Merman. Sondheim to Cesar Chavez. Decades of Mexican-American/Chicano and LGBTQ history intersect from a personal perspective in story and song. Touching, provocative and hilarious, Guerrero brings his solo play to the screen after nationwide critically acclaimed performances. ¡Somos! Cine LGBTQ+ Films Showcase.

Indocumentados sin miedo
Dir. Arturo Pulido
(Mexico / USA, 90 min., 2020, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary / Immigration)
Director Arturo Pulido’s eye-opening documentary takes viewers to the heart of the refugee crisis occurring along the Mexico/U.S. border. Authentic and indispensable, this vivid feature reckons with the realities facing many immigrants as they deal with insurmountable obstacles in their search for a better life. Frontera Filmmakers Showcase.

John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway
Dir. Ben DeJesus
(United States, 59 min., 2018, English, Comedy / Theater) 
John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway follows the always provocative John Leguizamo as he prepares for his most challenging theatrical quest yet – cramming 3,000 years of Latino history into 90 minutes of stage time for his latest one-man show, Latin History for Morons. With extraordinary access to his creative process, the film traces the evolution of his latest success and also tells the story of how an immigrant with a passionate voice and big dreams found a home in the top echelon of the theater world. Latino Public Broadcasting Films Showcase.

José Lezama Lima: Letters to Eloisa
Dir. Adriana Bosch
(United States, 64 min., 2020, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Literature)
Centered on the remarkable letters by José Lezama Lima to his sister living in exile in the United States, this feature-length documentary Letters to Eloísa tells the story of the Cuban writer’s life and work; weaving together the public and the private, the literary and the political, ultimately to focus on how the writer’s voice, at first amplified by the revolution’s cultural policies, was ultimately silenced by the absence of creative freedom in Cuba during its most tumultuous decades. Latino Public Broadcasting Films Showcase.

Maria Luiza
Dir. Marcelo Díaz
(Brazil, 80 min., 2019, Portuguese w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Maria Luiza is the first transgender in the Brazilian Armed Forces. After 22 years of work, she is retired due to disability. The movie investigates the motivations for her being prohibited to wear the feminine uniform and her trajectory into affirmation as a transgender, military and Catholic woman. ¡Somos! Cine LGBTQ + Films Showcase.

Dir. Sergio Morkin
(Mexico, 80 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Music Documentary)
Maricarmen Graue is a 52-year-old cello player; she plays with a rock band, as well as in a chamber orchestra. She is also a music teacher, a writer, and a marathon runner. She lives alone and is completely blind. She copes with her condition by having a biting sense of humor and being fiercely self-demanding. Swaying between laughter and a bare-boned meditation on the act of living, the documentary navigates the labyrinths surrounding a survivor. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase.

Mozart reciclado
Dirs. Victoria Piczman, Britta Schoening
(Argentina / Germany / Switzerland, 72 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Music Documentary)
A socio-cultural youth opera, initiated by the Argentinian-Swiss puppeteer Frida Leon, puts a spotlight on a group of “Cartoneros.” Facundo and Cristina who live in the slums of Buenos Aires and work as urban recyclers, participate in the project. For the first time, they perform on stage of a big opera house and even get the chance to travel to Switzerland. As both have never traveled abroad, this journey becomes a stirring experience. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase. 

Mucho mucho amor
Dirs. Cristina Constantini; Kareem Tabsch
(USA, 96 min., 2020, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Every day for decades, extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic and gender-nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world with his televised horoscopes. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter reached over 120 million viewers at his peak, enthralling the Latin world with sequined capes, opulent jewelry, and horoscopes that shared a message of love and hope to his devoted viewers. Then, he mysteriously disappeared. Over a decade later award-winning directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch and producer Alex Fumero capture Walter’s final two years, when the pioneering icon grappled with aging and his legacy and prepared for one last star-studded spectacle. Spotlight Films Showcase

Niña sola
Dir. Javier Ávila
(Mexico, 92 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
After the murder of 19-year-old Cinthia, her mother and sister begin to explore their own lives marked by abusive relationships with their male partners in an attempt to find an explanation for the crime and a new meaning to life. Frontera Filmmakers Showcase.

Nuestra Quinceañera
Dir. Fanny Veliz Grande
(United States, 75 min., 2019, English; Spanish w/ English subtitles, Cultural Traditions)
The event started with 4 girls and now it is a celebration for 80. A high school principal from a small town in Texas hosts an annual Quinceañera for students who can’t afford to throw a celebration of their own. The entire border town of San Benito comes together to teach these girls that with the power of community any dream can come true. Spotlight Films Showcase

Oblatos, el vuelo que surcó la noche
Dir. Acelo Ruiz Villanueva
(Mexico, 105 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Mexico, 1976. The government’s persecution of student and labor organizations continues.  Toño and Guaymas, members of the communist league “23 de Septiembre”, one of the most important underground resistance organizations in the country’s history, are detained on the grounds of subversion and sent to the high security section of Oblatos Penitentiary in Guadalajara. The only chance of surviving is to escape. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela 
Dir. Anabel Rodríguez Ríos
(Venezuela, 99 min., 2020, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Director Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’s striking and mournful ode to her country bears first hand witness to the irreversible consequences of government corruption, while simultaneously capturing the resilient spirit of those most directly affected by Venezuela’s profound economic and political crises. Revoluciones Films Showcase.

Dir. Juliana Fanjul
(Switzerland, 79 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles,Journalism )
In 2015, Carmen Aristegui, an incorruptible journalist, was fired from the radio station where she worked for years. But Carmen continued her fight: raising awareness and fighting against misinformation. The film tells the story of this quest: difficult and dangerous, but essential to the heath of democracy. A story in which resistance becomes a form of survival. ¡Viva Mujeres! Films Showcase.

Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage 
Dir. Ben DeJesus
(United States, 84 min., 2019, English, Biography)
From award-winning director, Ben DeJesus (Great Performances: John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway), Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage is a warm and revealing portrait of the actor’s charismatic and groundbreaking journey from his native country of Puerto Rico to the creative hotbed of 1960s New York City, to prominence on Broadway and in Hollywood. Filled with passion, determination, and joy, Juliá’s brilliant and daring career was tragically cut short by his untimely death 25 years ago, at age 54. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Retrato de un artista siempre adolescente 
Dir. Manuel Herrera 
(Cuba / Spain, 102 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
This astonishing documentary about Cuban filmmaker Julio García Espinosa and the birth of revolutionary cinema in Cuba is an indispensable reflection about the intertwined relationship between films, politics, and artists — and what this  reveals about society as a whole. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Las Sanadoras
Dir. Rodrigo Occelli
(Mexico, 93 min., 2019, English, Documentary)
Women in Mexico and Latin America take the risk of going to jail for making medicinal cannabis for their children. They will not stop fighting until cannabis is legalized.  ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Siudy entre mundos: 50 Performances of the American Dream
Dir. Pablo Croce
(United States, 60 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
Siudy Entre Mundos: 50 performances of the American Dream tell the story of the Miami-based Siudy Flamenco Dance Theater (SFDT), whose heritage and roots are in Venezuela and Spain, but who aspire as transplanted artists, refugees and immigrants to see themselves accepted in their adopted American homeland and society. After their stage production, Entre Mundo achieves commercial success, a negative New York Times review threatens to derail their production. The performers and artistic visionaries must then find the courage to continue on and not give up on their dream. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Siqueiros: Walls of Passion 
Dirs. Lorena Manríquez, Miguel Picker
(United States, 61 min., 2019, English, Documentary)
Siqueiros: Walls of Passion, a one-hour documentary film about Mexican visual artist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) and the resurrection of his Los Angeles mural América Tropical, located at the birthplace of Los Angeles and later championed by the Chicano movement as a symbol of its oppressed culture. One of the great Mexican artists of the 20th century and one of three great Mexican muralists (with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco), Siqueiros was a controversy-stirring revolutionary and lifetime activist who lived with theatrical flair and painted on an epic scale. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

Tío Yim
Dir. Luna Marán
(Mexico, 82 min., 2019, Spanish w/ English subtitles; English, Music  Documentary) 
Encouraged by his daughter and with a broken voice, Jaime Luna (Uncle Yim) an indigenous philosopher, social leader, and singer-songwriter composes a new song about his tumultuous life after 15 years of silence. But this time he will do it with his family, so the memories and interpretations are contradictory and painful. Uncle Yim is an immersion in the identity of a peculiar family shaped by tradition, music, and communality. Ritmo Latinx Films Showcase. 

Too Beautiful
Dir. Maceo Frost
(Cuba, 76 min., 2018, Spanish w/ English subtitles, Documentary / Sports)
Too weak. Too old. Too beautiful. Naysayers only fuel Namibia Flores Rodriguez’s need to fight. For decades, she’s trained 5 hours a day – every day – in hopes to one day win an Olympic gold title in boxing. But, in Cuba, boxing is banned for women. Although her native nation boasts more gold medals for boxing than any other country, women aren’t allowed in the ring. Now, aged 39 and just one year shy of the official age cap, Namibia is fighting for her final chance. Inspirational and with a lively score, Too Beautiful, cinematically captures the city of Havana and one woman’s steadfast perseverance in the face of institutional prejudice. ¡Documania! Films Showcase.

We Are the Radical Monarchs
Dir. Linda Goldstein Knowlton
(United States, 97 min., 2019, English, Youth Activism)
Set in Oakland, a city with a deep history of social justice movements, We Are the Radical Monarchs documents the Radical Monarchs – an alternative to the Scout movement for girls of color, aged 8-13. Its members earn badges for completing units on social justice including being an LGBTQ ally, the environment and disability justice. The feature documentary follows the first troop of Radical Monarchs for over three years until they graduate and document the Co-founders struggle to respond to the needs of communities across the U.S. and grow the organization after the viral explosion of interest in the troop’s mission to create and inspire a new generation of social justice activists. Para la familia Films Showcase.

Your Turn
Dir. Eliza Capai
(Brazil, 93 min., 2019, Portuguese w/ English subtitles, Documentary)
When Brazil’s economic and social crisis deepened in the last decade, students protested and occupied hundreds of schools, demanding better public education and the end of austerity measures. The feature documentary “Your Turn” depicts the Brazilian student movement from the protests of 2013 until the election of the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, in 2018. Inspired by the collective voice of the movement itself, the documentary is narrated by three high school students, who represent central points of their struggle. The narrators’ jostling for space and time exposes the movement’s conflicts and demonstrates its complexity. Revoluciones Films Showcase.


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