Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture. Latin culture has definitely had a massive influence on today’s society, both in Mexico and in our Mexican-American communities. It’s no wonder that with its deep and beautiful history; Mexico's culture and people have created some of the most beloved modern cinema that we have all come to know and love.
Cinco de Mayo is a great reason to enjoy some of these films.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth
The 2006 Spanish-Mexican dark fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno “The Labyrinth of the Faun”) was directed and written by Guillermo del Toro. It was then produced and distributed by Esperanto Films throughout the world.
Fans of Goth culture will particularly enjoy this incredibly dark, fantasy film. It takes place in Spain 1944, in the Francoist period, five years after the Spanish Civil War. It is in this chaotic setting that the narrative begins to intertwine both the real world and a mythical world which is centered in an abandoned labyrinth. It is in this labyrinth that we meet a mysterious faun creature, which the main character Ofelia interacts with throughout the film.
This visually stunning and eerie movie definitely showcases Mexican culture’s classical design of the unicursal seven-course which was at one point found on early Cretan coins.
2. Born in East L.A.
Released in 1987, the comedy film Born in East L.A. became an instant hit with all Americans. This film is about a Mexican-American from East Los Angeles who is mistaken for an undocumented immigrant and is subsequently deported. It was loosely inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the U.S.A”, when the writer/director Cheech Marin wanted to create a parody of this song.
Of course, this is a film that anyone should pick up and see at least once as it has become deep-seeded in modern American culture.
3. La Bamba
Written and directed by Luis Valdez, La Bamba is a 1987 American biographical film that follows the career of Chicano rock and roll star Ritchie Valens. In his early years, Richard (Ritchie) was your normal every-day kid, who wanted to become a rock and roll superstar.
The film follows his life as a rock star in the, as well as his love life with Donna (the inspiration for his number two hit “Donna”). Valens' music and the glimpses at 50s fashion make this movie a visual and audio treat. However, this film's real appeal comes from focus on the fact that Donna’s father had problems with her dating a Mexican-American and the friction it causes for the couple.
If you haven’t already seen LA Bamba, you should. It’s a classic and an absolute beautiful show about an American icon with proud Mexican heritage.
4. Sin Nombre
Sin Nombre was written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and is considered to be a must-see 2009 Mexican-American adventure thriller film. This movie is about a Honduran girl who goes through the trials and tribulations of immigrating into the United States, and a boy who is caught up in gang life, but needs a way to get out.
5. American Me
The biographical crime drama American Me was released in 1992, directed and written by Edward James Olmos as his first ever film.
This movie focuses on the fictionalized account of the founding of the Mexican Mafia within the California prison system. This movie is definitely a must-see for anyone who loves Mexican culture and history. While not completely accurate, this film that shows 30 years of the Chicano gang life in Los Angeles is definitely one that will show you how Mexican culture could have impacted modern culture.
If action, drama, or thrillers aren’t enough to get your blood pumping; Borderland, the 2007 horror film that was written and directed by Zev Berman, may be more to your speed.
Loosely based on actual events; this film follows the Satanic cult that practiced human sacrifice, along with Costanzo and his followers who participated in the kidnapping and murder of Mark J. Kilroy in 1989.
7. Robert Rodriguez - Mexico Trilogy
The Mexico Trilogy, also known as the Mariachi Trilogy, ran from 1992 to 2003. These films were distributed by Columbia Tristar , written and directed Robert Rodriguez, and have become a well known to movie fans and critics.
These films go tell the continued story of the main character El Mariachi and are definitely movies worth seeing if you’re interested in celebrating Cinco de Mayo with movies set in Mexico.