Top 25 Political Documentaries That Shed Light On Latin America’s Reality


Latin America, one of the world's richest region in resources and yet also the most unequal, is no longer "America's backyard", and its leaders are increasingly willing to defy pressure from the United States on what sorts of policies it ought to adopt for its people.  But even as it begins to emerge from the United States' long shadow on the world stage, its contentious history remains fresh in its mind - and by no means are many of those historical battles over and done with.  Here's a list of some of the top political documentaries which shed light on Latin America's reality, past and present. 

Perhaps our list leans to the left - okay, it's pretty much a catalogue of leftist documentaries on Latin America - but if you like, consider it less a reflection of our politics than of the genre itself, and of the function that it has fulfilled in a region as unequal and strife-filled as Latin America.  On the list are three films from Chilean director Patricio Guzmán, who continues to champion and defend the late Salvador Allende, and two of the films here, at least, might irk some of our friends on the right because of it. 

A few of the other most fervently leftist inclusions, like John Pilger's "The War On Democracy", are oddly enough from foreigners; some toe the line between traditional and downright stodgy, but the degree of access they're granted to important political figures makes them a fascinating watch.  We also threw in one film which isn't political, really, but deserved to be on the list because of its status as a kind of magnet for political commentators -- like the decayed buildings of Havana, Cuba's capital, "Buena Vista Social Club" can be read through any political prism you like.  Also, allow us to toss in this last addition - "Narco Cultura", whose creation we covered here, opens on Nov. 22 in New York and Miami.


What do you think?

David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.