In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we’ve gathered 10 moving and diverse documentaries that look at the many different lives of Latin Americans living at home and abroad. From current events to sports, suffering to celebration, and everything in between, these films explore identity and the Latinx experience in powerful ways. Learn more about these films, and then stream them on HBO Max.
News and Current Events Documentaries
Habla Now Series (2020)
“Habla Now” is the fifteenth installment of the public affairs and documentary series of programs, which started in 2003 with “Habla” (or “Speak”) and was followed by “Celebrity Habla,” “Habla Texas,” “Habla Women,” “Habla Men,” and 2016’s “Habla y vota,” among others. “Habla Now” is an honest look at life in the U.S. for Latin Americans of all ages and backgrounds, including celebrity chef José Andrés, Olympian Laurie Hernandez, actors Diane Guerrero and Arturo Castro, and many more.
“Sometimes funny, often poignant, always truthful,” WarnerMedia says, “the program provides a platform to reflect, celebrate and honor the humanity and strength of individual Latino lives.” Director and creator Alberto Ferreras adds: “With this latest installment of the series, we hope to spark thoughtful conversation and build bridges of understanding, as we work together to reimagine a more just and inclusive United States of America.”
In another hard look at the war on narcotics, 2015’s “Before We Are Forgotten” focuses on former Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s six-year battle on drug trafficking. With over 121,000 victims, this documentary interviews the parents, siblings, wives, and children of the missing and the murdered, bringing their personal stories of suffering to light.
Directed by Maxim Pozdorovkin (“The Truth About Killer Robots”), this documentary highlights Puentes de Salud, a healthcare clinic serving a population of largely undocumented immigrants, who would otherwise find themselves facing impossible medical bills. A hard-hitting film that puts a human face on the U.S. healthcare crisis, “Clinica de Migrantes” asks how much longer America can continue withholding basic necessities from this vulnerable group of an estimated 11 million people.
Carlos Moreno’s “Guerras Ajenas,” or “Foreign Wars,” examines the international drug wars in South and Central America, specifically the aerial spraying of a potentially carcinogenic herbicide as a tool in Colombia’s and the U.S.’s war against drugs. Targeting the coca leaf specifically, this controversial practice and poison are used nowhere else in the world. With over 30 interviews with various experts and directly with those affected, this documentary makes sure that those who have been silenced are now heard.
Human Interest Documentaries
With the tagline “It’s more than just a party,” this four-part documentary series takes a look into the lives of five teenagers and their families on the eve of their quinceañeras, the coming-of-age celebration for girls 15th birthdays. “Too often, the Latino community is defined in broad brushstrokes and generalizations,” director Matthew O’Neill – who also co-created 2015’s “The Latin Explosion: A New America” – told the Los Angeles Times. “In these films, you see five young women who are fierce and dynamic in such different ways.
“They come from different backgrounds, different places, different passions, and different personal stories. What unites them is the honoring of their community and their culture.”