Hollywood sign in California, USA
Although there are not many, Latino directors are winners of multiple Academy Awards and other film festival crowns around the world. Photo: Pixabay.

Latino directors in Hollywood: Few but desired

The fashionable surnames in the cradle of cinema are no longer solely of American or European origin. The most sought-after directors speak Spanish nowadays,…


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Until a few years ago, the most-recognized surnames in the most important film industry on the planet were those of geniuses, mostly North Americans, some of European origin, such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Woody Allen, among others, who, while still successful and influential, now share the stage with a Latino force that is increasingly desired for its immense quality and unlimited talent.

In this Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to highlight the fashion directors of the seventh art, highly-respected and coveted Latinos who have undoubtedly earned a privileged place in the United States entertainment industry. It's a list that certainly falls short, but solidifies with every passing day.

Pre-pandemic figures

Before the pandemic, only 4.5% of the roles with dialogue in Hollywood films were for Latino artists, something that is expected to change in an industry with the goal to be more inclusive. These figures came from a study by the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, where the 100 highest-grossing films between 2007 and 2018 were analyzed, finding that Latino participation was staggeringly low.

According to the study, in only 3% of the titles analyzed did the main roles feature Latino actors, while almost half of the films (47%) did not feature a Latino presence. On the other hand, it is striking that in that period of time, women of Hispanic origin have only received the opportunity to play main roles 17 times, with Cameron Díaz being the most requested (five times) and Jennifer López the oldest protagonist at 45 years old.

How are Latinos represented?

Within the same study, the type of roles that have been assigned to Latino actors is also revealed. About a quarter were criminal roles and 61.9% did so as gang members or drug traffickers; meanwhile, only nine characters played by Hispanics had higher education experience.

Big names behind the scenes

With accolades from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and acclaimed at the world's most important film festivals, Latino directors, few in numbers but immense in talent, have been stealing the attention of the industry and its critics.

The significant number of recognitions, including several Oscars (five in six years), should serve as a springboard to give more and better opportunities to Latino talent, but for now, the representation of the cultural group remains very limited.

Before the beginning of COVID-19, only 4%, among 1,335 directors, were of Latino origin, while only in 3% of the analyzed films with a Latino name in the credits featured a woman's.

The Mexican trident

- Guillermo del Toro

Born in Guadalajara, this true film lover who, in addition to being a director, has been an actor and a special effects artist, and is one of the most sought-after names of the moment, especially for those stories that mix “magical” worlds with dark realities.

Among his most important recognitions, del Toro has received several Bafta awards and a Golden Globe. But his greatest achievement so far was when he received two Oscars ("Best Director" and "Best Film"), for his production, The Shape of Water.

- Alejandro González-Iñárritu

The director, producer and screenwriter won the Oscar in 2015 for the success of Leonardo DiCaprio in the The Revenant. He has also been behind the camera of such relevant projects as Birdman and Babel. Together with Alfonso Cuarón, he rose to fame after the iconic Mexican film Amores perros, and both have become hot commodities in both worlds of big production and streaming.

A strong activist for the rights of migrants, he also recently ventured into the world of virtual reality with Carne y Arena, a format that tells the experiences of those who cross the desert to reach the United States.

- Alfonso Cuarón

Originally from Mexico City, this talented director has become famous for not being pigeonholed and carrying out projects of various budgets and genres, all with resounding success. Harry Potter, Y tu mamá también, Gravity and Roma are some of the award-winning films that have featured Cuarón's work behind the scenes.

Winner of Golden Globes, Golden Lion and multiple Oscars, the acclaimed director reflected in Roma, his most intimate project to date, the depth and value of his Latino roots, giving Latin culture an important and well-deserved recognition.

Praised by critics, successful at the box office, and proud of their origins, these three names become a solid foundation for new talents to continue to not only appear on the most powerful film scene in the world, but also continue to own it and making it more diverse and extraordinary every day.

According to the study, the Latino community is one of the demographic groups that consumes the most cinema. Being 18% of the whole population of the United States, Latinos buy 23% of the tickets to movie theaters in the country. With these figures, it should be logical that the representation of this community was more accurate and closer to reality while new talents should be involved.


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