5 must-see films from this year’s Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival

A scene from the movie "Charcoal."
(Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival)

With a balanced compendium of narratives by and about Latinos in the United States, as well as acclaimed titles produced in Latin America over the last year, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) returns to the TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, May 31-June 4.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela are among the nations represented in this year’s edition. Programs focused on episodic television, animation, short films, musical acts and industry panels complement the extensive lineup.

The festivities kick off with Eva Longoria’s directorial debut “Flamin’ Hot,” ahead of the film’s Hulu debut on June 9. The biopic on the now-embattled success story of Frito Lay janitor turned businessman Richard Montañez (played by Jesse Garcia) aims to transmit a life-affirming message.


Former “Saturday Night Live” writer, and creator of the HBO series “Los Espookys,” Julio Torres will close the festival with his first foray into feature filmmaking, “Problemista.” An imaginative look at the elusive promise of the American dream, the comedy stars Torres himself alongside British actor Tilda Swinton.

Here are five feature film recommendations that include a landmark entry from Central America and an unusual animated title.


Set in the Brazilian countryside, this biting ensemble piece from director Carolina Markowicz traces the contours of morality in an unjust capitalist system. When a struggling, low-income family agrees to hide an Argentine criminal in exchange for substantial remuneration, the dynamics of power within the household shift. Everyone, including their 9-year-old son Jean (Jean de Almeida Costa), must readjust their boundaries in the face of the secrecy and rewards of their deal. With acidly dark humor and a string of unpredictable twists, this auspicious debut packs tonally precise social commentary into an enthralling crime drama. June 1, 9:15 p.m.

A scene from the movie "Daughter of Rage."
(Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival)

Daughter of Rage

Hailed as the first feature film directed by a Nicaraguan woman, this potent drama from Laura Baumeister follows Maria (Ara Alejandra Medal), an 11-year-old whose mother collects recyclables from a nearby landfill. A turn of events separates mother and daughter, leaving the young girl to survive in a poverty-stricken environment with other kids in a similar situation. Medal, a first-time actor, renders a quietly striking performance that communicates a pent-up fury against hardship and abandonment. Amid the downhearted social realism of the story, the director finds room for bright instances of childhood innocence and evocative dream sequences. June 3, 5:15 p.m.

A scene from the movie "Hope, Soledad."
(Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival)

Hope, Soledad

L.A.-based filmmaker Yolanda Cruz inserts a fictional narrative about two women, each on their individual journey to self-discovery, into a cinematic documentation of the pilgrimage to visit the Virgin of Juquila in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Soledad (Karen Daneida) is a married woman who believes the ghost of a deceased lover haunts her, while Hope (Frida Cruz), raised in California, has reluctantly arrived in her family’s homeland. With every step toward their mutual destination, their bond strengthens. The director delicately maps a series of observations on spiritual devotion, personal choices and empirical wisdom against the backdrop of a specific community and culture. June 3, 2:30 p.m.

A scene from the movie "Hummingbirds."
(Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival)


“Everyone knows I had an abortion,” reads the T-shirt that Silvia Del Carmen Castaños bravely wears at one point during this lucid self-portrait of bicultural queer youth, co-directed with best friend and co-star Estefanía “Beba” Contreras. Laced with irreverent humor to cope with their challenging circumstances, this nonfiction feature invites us into their coming-of-age summer in the border town of Laredo, Texas. Personally invested in their abortion rights and pro-immigrant activism — Contreras is undocumented and so is Castaños’ mother — the Mexican American duo conveys their innermost fears and yearnings through music and poetry that become part of an unposed tapestry of lived experiences. June 4, 4:15 p.m.

A scene from the movie "The Other Shape."
(Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival)

The Other Shape

No dialogue is necessary in Colombian writer-director Diego Felipe Guzmán’s hand-drawn animated world where squares are the preferred geometrical shape — even the moon has changed form. Everyone in this psychedelic alternate reality is obsessed with molding their heads and bodies into cubes, even wearing torturous contraptions to do so. That peculiar premise lends itself to bizarrely comedic character design, as we follow a young man desperate to fit in, only to realize that his squared worldview has prevented him from seeing less rigid possibilities beyond the status quo. Guzmán‘s vision provides a metaphor for the importance of questioning what we have accepted as immutable. June 2, 9:15 p.m.


2023 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival

Where: TCL Chinese Theatres, 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood

When: May 31 to June 4