Five shows and documentaries explaining Latin America

Fifty years ago if you wanted to learn about something, you’d go to the library and read about. Reading is wonderful. But there’s also the beauty of movies and documentaries to really take a look at the lives, faces and spaces of people who have lived dramatically different experiences than us.

Most of the time, putting a face to the larger political, social and cultural helps us better understand how institutions and international relationships play out in the lives of others.

So I’ve done some looking around for documentaries or movies that would help me understand the complexities of Latin America. I’ve selected five in no particular order.  I would encourage you to check some of these out too!

  1. Presunto Culpable: Here in America, the mantra of our justice system, is innocent until proven guilty. In other parts of the world, it’s the other way around. The translation of this title is “Presumed Guilty.” The film explores Mexico’s justice system and is told by from the point of view of two attorneys trying to exonerate a wrongly convicted man.
  2. Cocaine Kingpin: The story of Pablo Escobar: You’ve probably heard of the infamous Colombian drug lord. But what about else do you know about how the Colombian government  tried to fight him?

    Fusion came out with this six-part series this summer. They talk with family members and politicians of the time. Each video is about 8-11 minutes long. But with the variety of voices, original footage and audio, you start to see a greater complexity to Colombia’s drug war.

  3. El Abrazo de la Serpiente:

    This black and white film takes you deep into the Amazon. I saw this film over the summer. One of the most memorable scenes is about the rubber trade in Brazil.

  4. For those geography lovers out there, there’s Los Viajes del Viento. This film takes you through Colombia’s varying countryside in the north Atlantic coast. Music, tradition and folklore combine to show the audience that Colombia is not just a tropical jungle. In fact, there’s a desert there.
  5. Batalla de Chile: 1973 marked the beginning of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. In 1975 Patricio Guzman created this documentary about life under the military regime. What does life look like when democracy does not exist?



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