It’s no secret, the film industry isn’t diverse. From the directors and producers to the characters (with speaking roles) and costume designers, it’s evident in all aspects of the filmmaking process that representation isn’t at the forefront of creation for Hollywood. In fact, researchers at USC Annenberg shared in a 2016 report on diversity that their findings “suggest that exclusion is the norm rather than the exception in Hollywood.”
Although we’ve had glimmers of hope this year alone with films like Black Panther, A Wrinkle In Time and Crazy Rich Asians, more can be done. And there are a number of creatives who are taking the independent route, producing diverse films and documentaries that entertain, educate and speak to the core of human nature. These films can be found in one of many film festivals both in the U.S. and abroad.
The film La Negrada, which was shown at the African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) in August, was praised for its all-Black Mexican cast. But news quickly surfaced that director Jorge Pérez Solano described Afro-Mexicans as “savage” in an interview with a national newspaper. Organizations such as Mexico Negro, Huella Negra, and Afrodescendencias en Mexico contend that the drama plays into stereotypes about Blacks.
There are, however, films that were created by Afro-descendants to showcase various aspects of culture in Latin American. Check out these eight films directed by Black women across Latin America:
De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another)—Sara Gomez
Afro-Cubana filmmaker Sara Gomez’s groundbreaking film De cierta manera was the first to investigate issues of racism, sexism and classism in Castro’s Cuba. Highly regarded in Cuban cinema, the film blends documentary and fiction to tell the story of a progressive female school teacher who falls in love with a traditionally minded factory worker. Gómez died just before completing De cierta manera, which was finished by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Julio García-Espinosa and Rigoberto López and released posthumously.
Diálogo Con Mi Abuela (Dialogue With My Grandmother)—Gloria Rolando
Through the story of her abuela and family photos that span over a century, filmmaker Gloria Rolando is giving a voice to the Afro-Cuban experiencing. Anchoring the docufiction in a recorded conversation she had with her grandmother, Rolando shares, “My grandmother, Inocencia Armas Abreu, was not a famous artist, nor did she distinguish herself in the sciences. She was a poor Black woman, who was born in the Province of Santa Clara, Cuba in 1906, and died in Havana in 1999. In my grandmother’s hands, and those of so many black women, we find the foundation of the past and the traces of forgotten memory of a silenced aspect of Cuban history.”
O Dia de Jerusa (Jerusa’s Day)—Viviane Ferreira
Short film Jerusa’s Day walks you through a day in the life of a woman living in the neighborhood of Bela Vista in São Paulo. You can’t help but feel empathy as we get a glimpse into Jerusa’s world as she navigates her loneliness in a community filled with widows and single women who live day to day.
The docu-series Negro explores and unpacks identity, colonization, colorism and racism within Latin America and the Caribbean from the vantage point of Afro-descendants. Afro-Panamena Dash Harris delves into the history of Afro-Latinidad and the significance of this identity through in-depth interviews with people of African descent in various countries, including Dominican Republic, Panama and Honduras.
Invisible Roots: Afro-Mexicans of Southern California—Tiffany Walton
Through the accounts of three Afro-Mexican families living in Southern California, Invisible Roots explores the pride Afro-Mexicans have in themselves, as well as how race alienates them from their culture and subjects them to discrimination.
“I think that it’s important to hear the stories of the people in our documentary because they challenge our notions of race, ethnicity and nationality,” says co-director Tiffany Walton, who is of Afro-Panamanian descent, to Remezcla. Again, we generally have this idea that Mexicans and Mexican Americans look a certain way, but our documentary shows the diversity and that there is a much deeper narrative—that oftentimes there is more than meets the eye.
The Summer of Gods—Eliciana Nascimento
Afro-Brazilian filmmaker Eliciana Nascimento’s short film The Summer of Gods is based on her personal experience in navigating spirituality. “The little girl [in the film] is a reflection of myself resisting the call of worshiping the Orishas,” shares Nascimento, who grew up in Salvador, Bahia in a family ingrained in Afro-Brazilian religious traditions such as Candomblé and Umbanda. She was initiated as an adult, and was inspired by that experience and childhood memories to write The Summer of Gods.
Hermanas en Ruedas (Sisters on Wheels)—Amberly Alene Ellis
Directed by Amberly Alene Ellis, Hermanas en Ruedas (Sisters on Wheels) is a documentary that follows the stories of young women in the growing underground skating culture in Havana, Cuba. The doc provides a window into how the young women skaters navigate the traditionally male-dominated sport amidst a backdrop of international exchanges and a drastic shift in U.S./Cuba relations.
On Our Land: Being Garifuna in Honduras—Erica Renee Harding
A short ethnographic documentary, On Our Land looks at the Garifuna community in Honduras and the United States. Through a series of interviews with community members, local politicians, and members of the Garifuna diaspora, the film explores the challenges of cultural survival and institutional representation this unique community, which was never enslaved, faces. The film co-directors include Erica Renee Harding, Neil Dixon and James P. Frazier.