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Congressional Hispanic Caucus nominates 25 Latino movies for National Film Registry

The films were selected with feedback from Latino arts and media advocacy groups, lawmakers said.
Image: Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek in the movie Frida.
Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek in "Frida."Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are nominating 25 films highlighting the experiences of Latinos in the U.S. for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

The nominations are part of growing efforts to fight Latino underrepresentation in Hollywood, Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said in a letter to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on Tuesday.

Some of the nominated films are Julie Taymor's 2002 biographic film "Frida," starring Salma Hayek as the legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Edward James Olmos' 2006 film "Walkout," based on the true story of the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts, starring Michael Peña and Alexa Vega.

Some delve into Latin American politics or history, such as the 1989 film "Romero," with the late actor Raúl Juliá, about the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero by right-wing death squads, which preceded a long civil war.

Other movies focus on family and culture, such as María Ripoll's 2001 film "Tortilla Soup," starring Hector Elizondo as a retired chef who insists that his three adult daughters gather every Sunday for family dinner. Also on the list is Alfredo De Villa's 2008 film "Nothing Like the Holidays," starring Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña and John Leguizamo, which depicts an extended Puerto Rican family's Christmas holiday gathering in Chicago.

"The National Film Registry's very existence speaks to the importance of film in American culture and society. Hollywood is the main image-defining and narrative-producing industry in the United States. As you know, Latinos remain dramatically underrepresented in this influential industry, contributing to the misperceptions and stereotypes about Latinos in our society," the lawmakers said in their letter to Hayden.

"When we cannot tell our stories, others will tell stories about us — we believe this is a significant factor motivating ongoing anti-Latino sentiment in American society, one which negatively impacts Latinos in all aspects of society, from immigration law to the education system to the current public health crisis," the letter reads.

In January, Castro nominated Mexican American filmmaker Gregory Nava's 1997 movie "Selena" for preservation at the Library of Congress.

Netflix commissioned the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to conduct its first comprehensive study of diversity and inclusion in its film and series programming. Researchers found that a mere 4.5 percent of main cast and crew members in Netflix U.S. series and films in 2018 and 2019 were Latino, even though Latinos make up about 19 percent of the country's population, according to the report, which was released Friday.

"Though Latinos comprise almost 20 percent of our country's population, they remain severely underrepresented in Hollywood," Ruiz, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. "Including more Latino films in the National Film Registry will help elevate Latino stories, promote an inclusive media landscape, and empower Latino filmmakers and storytellers."

Castro said in a statement that Latinos remain drastically underrepresented in this year's awards season.

"The Library of Congress' National Film Registry can help rectify that exclusion," Castro said. "And while we celebrate these great Latino films, Hollywood must ensure that new generations of Latino filmmakers will have the opportunity to tell their stories on screen."

Here is the full list of the nominated films:

  • "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" by Robert Young (1982). The Western film tells the true story of a Mexican farmer-turned-outlaw hero in turn-of-the-century South Texas.
  • "Latino" by Haskell Wexler (1985). A Mexican American Green Beret starts to question his beliefs as he is sent to lead the Contra rebels on a series of raids in Nicaragua.
  • "The Milagro Beanfield War" by Robert Redford (1988). It tells the story of a small New Mexico town's confrontation with powerful business interests.
  • "Romero" by John Duigan (1989). A biopic about Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination in 1980 and El Salvador's civil war.
  • "Lo que le pasó a Santiago" ("What Happened to Santiago") by Jacobo Morales (1989). A widower in Puerto Rico begins a new relationship with a mysterious woman.
  • "American Me" by Edward James Olmos (1992). The story of a Mexican American man's experience with prison and discrimination.
  • "Blood In, Blood Out" by Taylor Hackford (1993). The tragedy of three Chicano cousins who are divided by their divergent life choices amid gang conflict in East Los Angeles.
  • "My Family" by Gregory Nava (1995). A generational epic of an Mexican American family through the 20th century.
  • "Tortilla Soup" by María Ripoll (2001). The story of three adult sisters and their father, a retired chef, who insists that they all gather every Sunday for dinner.
  • "Spy Kids" by Robert Rodriguez (2001). Two children become spies after they discover that their parents are superhero spies.
  • "12 Horas" ("12 Hours") by Raúl Marchand Sánchez (2001). The film shows 12 hours in the life of a taxi driver and other characters in Santurce, Puerto Rico, amid the reality of the night life.
  • "Frida" by Julie Taymor (2002). A biopic following the life of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
  • "Raising Victor Vargas" by Peter Sollett (2002). A Dominican American teenager in New York comes to terms with his family and romantic relationships.
  • "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) by Walter Salles. A road movie following Ernesto "Che" Guevara's formative motorcycle journey across South America in the early 1950s.
  • "Maria Full of Grace" by Joshua Marston (2004). A pregnant woman from Colombia lands in New York and becomes an undocumented immigrant.
  • "Hermanas" ("Sisters") by Julia Solomonoff (2005). Two Argentine sisters reunite in Texas and relive traumatic family memories of the military dictatorship they fled.
  • "Viva Cuba" ("Long Live Cuba") by Juan Carlos Cremata (2005). Two Cuban friends run away from home when they discover that they will be separated when one of their families migrates to the U.S.
  • "The Lost City" by Andy Garcia (2005). A family is divided by the Cuban revolution, leading one brother to join the revolution and the other to flee to the U.S.
  • "Walkout" by Edward James Olmos (2006). The true story of the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts.
  • "Under the Same Moon" by Patricia Riggen (2007). A Mexican boy's journey across the border to reunite with his mother in Los Angeles.
  • "Nothing Like the Holidays" by Alfredo De Villa (2008). A Puerto Rican extended family gets together for the holidays.
  • "Down for Life" by Alan Jacobs (2009). The movie follows a day in the life of a Latina high school student as she struggles to make it to college.
  • "Don't Let Me Drown" by Cruz Angeles (2009). The love story of two Latino teenagers in New York in the aftermath of 9/11.
  • "Gun Hill Road" by Rashaad Ernesto Green (2011). A father recently released from jail comes to terms with his trans daughter's coming out.
  • "A Better Life" by Christopher Weitz (2011). An undocumented Mexican worker in Los Angeles searches for his stolen truck alongside his son.

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