The Best Documentaries on Latin American Voices

26 de abril de 2024


Latin America has long been a fertile ground for powerful storytelling, with its rich history, diverse cultures, and complex social dynamics providing ample material for documentary filmmakers. These creators not only capture life's realities but also engage deeply with their subjects, often advocating for social change. This article explores some of the best Latin documentaries that have not only triumphed at international film festivals but have also elevated the art form, offering unique insights and compelling narratives that resonate worldwide.


The documentary film genre has become a critical medium for exploring and communicating the nuanced experiences of Latin American societies. These documentaries provide a visceral connection to places and people often marginalized in mainstream media.


By winning accolades at prestigious festivals, these films have proven their power to transcend geographical and cultural barriers, bringing local stories to a global audience. Platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and GuideDoc have been instrumental in ensuring that these important works find their audience, allowing viewers worldwide to watch these stories unfold.


Documentaries go beyond mere storytelling; they are tools for reflection and instruments of change. The featured Latin American documentaries delve into a range of topics—from environmental challenges and cultural heritage to social injustices and personal identities. They do not shy away from controversy; instead, they confront and often subvert the expected narratives, providing a platform for voices that are frequently suppressed. This reflective power not only informs viewers but also invites them to reconsider their perceptions and prejudices.


Showcase of Award-Winning Latin American Documentaries:



Absence Of Me

Filmmaker Melina Terribili artfully bridges past and present in her documentary to paint a posthumous portrait of Alfredo Zitarrosa, the iconic Uruguayan singer-songwriter and poet. Utilizing a rich array of archival footage, Terribili revives Zitarrosa's charismatic presence and mellifluous voice, while also confronting the oppressive shadows of the dictatorship that exiled him. Interwoven with these historical echoes are poignant scenes of Zitarrosa's family in the present day, striving to preserve his legacy and the poignant memories encapsulated within his music and poetry.


Man on the Plain - Hombre en la llanura

Directed by a visionary filmmaker, this offbeat documentary takes viewers across the vast plains of Latin America, weaving together the personal with the panoramic. Winning accolades at Visions du Réel, Seminci, DOC Buenos Aires, and EDOC, this documentary paints a portrait of a modern-day gaucho facing the encroachments of modernity and the struggle to maintain traditional ways of life. Through stunning visuals and a poignant narrative, it explores themes of isolation, identity, and the inevitable clash between old and new. 


Storm in the Andes

Josefin, a Swedish woman born after her aunt Augusta La Torre, co-founder of Sendero Luminoso, died in Peru, embarks on a journey with director Mikael Wiström to uncover the truth about her infamous relative and the civil conflict she helped ignite. In Peru, she meets Flor Gonzales, whose life was shattered by the violence of the war.


Together, they navigate the painful remnants of the past, seeking closure and understanding. Their quest reveals a complex narrative of innocence, guilt, and the intergenerational pursuit of truth, offering a cathartic reconciliation with their families' histories.


Tribugá Expedition - Expedición Tribugá

This compelling documentary clinched the award for best feature film at the Santiago Wild 2023 Film Festival. It chronicles an ambitious scientific expedition in the heart of Colombia, showcasing the rich biodiversity that is at risk due to looming environmental threats. Through its breathtaking cinematography, "Expedición Tribugá" not only highlights the natural beauty of the region but also the urgent need for conservation efforts. Stream this eye-opening film on YouTube.



In the lawless heart of Cerro Rico, Potosí, where miners delve deep into the earth to extract precious metals, a different kind of battle ensues on the surface. "Minerita" follows the lives of three women—Lucía, Ivone, and Abigail—as they fight to survive in an environment that marries extreme danger with brutal violations of human rights.


Armed only with their courage and occasionally dynamite, these women stand defiant against the relentless exploitation, both in the mines and in their community.



Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, "Sujo" examines the harsh realities faced by waste pickers in Brazil, providing an unflinching look at the economic and social hardships that define their lives. The documentary uses their personal stories to challenge viewers’ perceptions about waste, poverty, and resilience. Find "Sujo" on Netflix, where its powerful storytelling and impactful imagery are sure to resonate deeply.


9 Months 9 Days

After nine harrowing months adrift in the Pacific Ocean, three Mexican fishermen find themselves navigating even more treacherous waters on land. The documentary captures their survival saga, from the initial shipwreck near the Marshall Islands to the subtle yet complex dangers that await them ashore.


What begins as a story of survival at sea morphs into a nuanced exploration of resilience and the human spirit's capacity to endure beyond the elemental forces of nature.


Deus tem AIDS

This groundbreaking film by Fábio Leal and Gustavo Vinagre tackles the AIDS epidemic in Brazil through the lens of seven artists and an activist doctor. "Deus tem AIDS" deconstructs societal prejudices and portrays the lives of those living with HIV with dignity and depth. The documentary blends personal narrative with artistic expression, making a compelling case for the power of art as a means of resistance and affirmation of life. 


Jonas and the Backyard Circus

Thirteen-year-old Jonas dreams of perpetuating the circus magic he grew up with, despite his family's settlement in a rough neighborhood. The documentary portrays his endeavors to keep his homemade circus alive amidst the challenges of adolescence and societal violence. Through his eyes, viewers experience the wonder of circus arts and the bittersweetness of growing up, where dreams are both forged and tested by reality.


The Infinite Memory - La memoria infinita 

This insightful documentary explores the enduring impact of  Alzheimer's through the eyes of those who continue to search for the disappeared. Alberdi’s sensitive storytelling and innovative use of archival footage provide a powerful commentary on memory, loss, and reconciliation. "La memoria infinita" serves as a vital reminder of the atrocities of the past and the ongoing struggle for justice. Check this profound film out on Netflix, where its narrative helps keep the memories alive.



The documentaries discussed offer more than just insights into diverse Latin American cultures; they challenge, celebrate, and reflect on the human conditions that resonate universally. These films, successful not just in festival circuits but also in touching the hearts of viewers worldwide, underscore the significance of documentary filmmaking as a form of art that has the power to change minds and inspire action. Whether you're watching online on platforms like Netflix, YouTube, or GuideDoc, these documentaries are essential viewing for anyone interested in the profound stories that define and shape Latin America.



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