Latin America has a long and rich history that is full of stories waiting to be heard. From documentaries about its vibrant culture and people to those focused on its tumultuous geopolitical landscape, there are endless opportunities for filmmakers to explore the region’s unique perspective. From powerful features focusing on pivotal political moments to intimate portraits of the lives of everyday Latin American citizens, these best documentaries about Latin America offer insight into the region’s history, current events and complex social issues. From blockbusters to small-scale indie films, these are some of the best documentaries about Latin America that you won’t want to miss. So sit back and get ready for a unique exploration of the culture, people, and country that make Latin America so special.
1. Latin American Literature documentary
Borges, Neruda, Arlt, Vallejo, Carpentier and Ocampo all left behind legacies that will remain in our hearts forever. They were giants of their time, who pushed the boundaries of literature and arts further than anyone had before them. From their innovative works to their revolutionary ideas, these writers still have much to teach us today – a reminder that the power of language has no limits. This is why, despite the passage of time, their legacy continues to shine: a testament to the way that literature and art can transform generations. Even centuries apart, these incredible writers remain timeless figures in Latin American literature. Their stories live on, inspiring each new generation to create works of beauty and innovation – just as they did all those years ago.
2. Why Is Latin America still Poor
The Americas are vast, with North and South America often seen as two separate entities. However, the differences in wealth between these two regions is astounding, creating a stark contrast between the relative poverty of Latin America compared to the opulence of the United States. Why is this? To find out, we must delve into a fascinating historical narrative which reveals that inequality in the Americas is rooted in centuries of political and economic turmoil. From European colonialism to the effects of globalisation, Latin America has been subjected to a range of social, economic and political forces that have had a profound impact on its development. By tracing these events we can begin to understand why North America is so wealthy compared to Latin America and how this inequality continues to shape the region.
3. China has taken over Latin America and no one noticed
China, one of the greatest superpowers on earth, has been quietly expanding its reach. From investments in technology to a growing presence throughout Latin America, it’s clear that China is making strides towards establishing itself as a global leader. But what may come as a surprise to many is that this expansion has largely gone unnoticed — until now. The Chinese government has been investing heavily in Latin American countries for years. From infrastructure projects like roads and railways to financing trade deals, the Chinese have become a major player in the region. What’s more, they’ve seen success with their plans as economic growth across Latin America continues to be steady and strong. The implications of this are many for both China and Latin America. As China continues to establish its presence in the region, it could very well become a major political and economic force to be reckoned with.
4. Harvest of Empire The Untold Story of Latinos in America
At a time of contentious debate over immigration, Onyx Films is thrilled to share Harvest of Empire, an insightful documentary that reveals the direct connection between U.S. intervention in Latin America and today’s immigration crisis. This film is based on the book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan González. It takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. military and economic interests have played in sparking an unprecedented wave of migration, forever changing our nation’s cultural and economic landscape. Harvest of Empire is a powerful glimpse into the sacrifices and successes of our country’s growing Latino community. The documentary features present-day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material, and interviews with leaders such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, journalists María Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique, and poet Martín Espada.
5. 4 Stories from Latin America
We’re heading on an exploration tour of Latin America! Our first stop is Peru, to witness a centuries-old tradition in action—the construction of a handwoven rope bridge. Next, we make our way to Xochimilco, Mexico where we’ll meet with a man who is trying to save the unique and beautiful floating farms known as chinampas. Then, we dive into the complicated history of the bicycle kick in Cuba before wrapping up our trip by rolling with street racers. It’s going to be an adventure! Get ready for a wild ride as we explore some of Latin America’s most incredible sites and stories. Buckle up and let’s go!
6. South America’s Paradise: Terra del Fuego
Known as “The End of the World,” Terra del Fuego is a paradise in South America that offers an awe-inspiring view to its visitors. With snow-capped mountains, rolling hillsides, and vast blue oceans surrounding it, this mesmerizing land is a true picture of nature’s beauty. The locals call this land “The Land of Fire” and it is easy to see why. The snow-capped mountains are capped with fire as the sun sets, leaving behind a breathtaking view. The hillsides offer lush green vegetation that contrasts perfectly against its icy surroundings. Not to mention the vast blue oceans that surround the area, providing a beautiful contrast and making it even more picturesque.
7. Superfoods and the environment – Avocados and blueberries from South America
Avocados and blueberries, two superfoods that are all the rage in Europe. Nutrient-rich fruits bursting with health benefits, but at what cost? A sharp increase in demand from Europe and the US has resulted in an expansion of avocado and blueberry farms throughout Chile and Peru. But growing these fruits requires a lot of water; water which is being taken from the Andes to feed these thirsty plantations. Water activist Rodrigo Mundaca has been fighting for years against the environmental and human cost of this superfood industry. He’s on a mission to reform Chile’s water laws, but in the meantime, thousands of litres are used to grow each kilo of avocados, and large-scale blueberry farms are to be found throughout Peru’s desert-like landscape. The question remains, is this superfood industry really worth the environmental and human cost? Avocados and blueberries from South America – superfood or climate killer? The only thing left to do is to make sure that every decision we make regarding these fruits takes into account the impact it will have on our environment. After all, what’s the point of having nutritious fruits if the cost of them is the destruction of our planet? We must consider this when making food choices and ensure that ethical production methods are in place. Otherwise, there won’t be any superfoods left to enjoy. It’s up to us to make sure that we consume these fruits in a conscious and responsible way. Let’s ensure that our planet is still alive and healthy enough to enjoy them for years to come.
8. Fighting for women’s rights – Latin America’s feminist movement
The women of Latin America are rising up. Fed up with macho culture and outdated female imagery, they don their masks, ski goggles, and cat ears to fight for what is right. No longer content to accept the violence that claims the lives of ten women each day in Mexico, they take to the streets in a unified display of strength and power. The women of Argentina serve as a beacon of hope. After years of struggle, the green wave of the feminist movement has succeeded in legalizing abortion. But not all places have been won; even in Argentina’s conservative provinces, abortion is still viewed with suspicion and taboo.
9. Legendary Creatures of South America
South America has a rich mythology full of legendary creatures that have been passed down from generation to generation. From the Amazon Rainforest to the Patagonian Plains, you can find tales of magical beasts and strange phenomena all across the continent. The Inca believed in a creature known as Tunupa, an owl-like beast with powers over lightning and thunder. It was said that Tunupa could control the weather by unleashing storms of rain and hail upon villages, or creating a peaceful calm. You might also hear about Pishtaco, an evil creature from Peru that preys on travelers in the night.
10. Lost Kingdoms of South America (2013) Ep1 People of the Clouds
Unearth the secrets of South America’s long-forgotten past. Join Dr Jago Cooper on an epic journey as he uncovers centuries-old ruins and explores ancient civilizations. From Peru to Bolivia, discover stunning landscapes and meet the people who lived in these mysterious kingdoms. In Chimor, explore temples that have been hidden for millennia deep in the jungle. In Muisca and Tairona, Colombia, uncover the secrets of mountain citadels. And in Chachapoya and Tiwanaku, Bolivia, discover the long-forgotten gods and kings carved in stone. This is a captivating journey into a forgotten world full of mystery and intrigue!
11. Lost Kingdoms of South America (2013) Ep2 The Stone at the Centre
Explore the mysteries of South America with archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper. Uncover the hidden character of this incredible continent, its cultures and its inhabitants. Venture through forgotten civilisations that shaped the history of South America for thousands of years, even before the Incas and Spanish arrived on their shores. Four episodes take us into the deep jungle to discover secret temples, mountain citadels and ancient gods created in stone. Discover the Incan empire of Chimor in Peru; explore the Muisca and Tairona people of Colombia; learn about Chachapoya culture in Peru; And uncover the wonders of Tiwanaku in Bolivia.
12. Lost Kingdoms of South America (2013) Ep3 Lands of Gold
Discover the lost history of South America! From Colonial conquerors to ancient civilizations, explore a continent brimming with secrets. Unearth the mysteries of Chimor in Peru, Muisca and Tairona in Colombia, Chachapoya and Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Dazzling ruins lie hidden deep in the jungle, soaring mountain citadels abound – all telling the story of forgotten peoples and their gods. The Incas may have left their mark, but it was the pre-Inca civilizations that truly flourished in South America for millennia. Join Archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper as he reveals the true character of this stunning continent through its culture, people and landscapes. Find out why these ancient empires made such an indelible impression on the world.
13. Lost Kingdoms of South America (2013) Ep4 Kingdom of the Desert
From deep in the jungle to towering mountain citadels, South America is home to some of the most awe-inspiring ancient cultures that have been largely forgotten. Through the lens of archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper, we explore four enigmatic civilizations: Chimor in Peru, Muisca and Tairona in Colombia, Chachapoya in Peru, and Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Whether it be hidden temples, mysterious gods or long-lost kings carved in stone, there are many secrets to uncover as we search for insight into the true character of this remarkable continent. From a rich and fascinating history of independent development spanning millennia to the disruptions caused by the arrival of the Incas and Spanish conquistadors.
14. South American Ramadan in tropical Guyana
Guyana, a Caribbean island nation, has a surprisingly vibrant Muslim population. The country’s first Muslim president, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, was elected due to the respect and tolerance of its people. Ramadan is an important time of year in Guyana, with Shalimar Ali-Hack, the longest serving director of public prosecutions there, believing that one day there may even be a Muslim woman president. The beautiful and diverse country of Guyana is home to many different cultures, with Islam having been introduced to the island by African slaves in the 17th century. But it is Indian indentured labourers who are responsible for the majority of today’s Guyanese Muslims, who contribute greatly to all aspects of society – from entertainment and the arts to law and politics. This film looks at faith and festivities during Ramadan in a unique corner of the world, painting a picture of the vibrant spiritual life that exists in Guyana. It is an exploration of what it means to be Muslim in this small but important part of South America. It celebrates all aspects of Islam by bringing its beliefs and rituals to the forefront. In Guyana, Ramadan is not only a time of reflection and prayer – it’s also a time to come together and share in the joy of faith.