Latino Cinema Extends its Presence in US Library of Congress National Film Registry

With two additions to the National Film Registry, Latino movies now total 24, but still only represent 3% of the total collection

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is one of the Latino movies that has been incorporated into the US National Library of Congress National Film Registry. (Photo: Mexico's Ministry of Culture).
December 16, 2022 | 10:42 AM

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Bloomberg Línea — The National Film Registry of the US Library of Congress has selected 25 movies that will become part of its collection of film heritage, and among them are two Latino films that are important to the cultural and historical importance of cinema in the country.

The first is “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950), the first American film adaptation of the late 19th century French play, and which stars Puerto Rico-born José Ferrer, who would become the first Latino to win an Oscar for best actor in 1951.

Directed by Michael Gordon, critics felt the film was handicapped by its low budget and for seeming too much like a theatrical production, which, however, earned Ferrer recognition for his performance.

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“The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” (1982) was the second film to be picked, and which was considered the seed that spawned the growth of the Chicano film movement in the 1980s. It starred Edward James Olmos, who, together with several friends, decided to make a film about a true story of injustice in the Texas border days.

The film, directed by Robert M. Young, tells the story of a Mexican-American farmer who in 1901 was falsely accused of stealing a horse. From that point on, a series of events unfolds that conclude with Cortez in prison.

According to the US Library of Congress, the film was made on a small budget for PBS, and Olmos himself said “the film is being seen more today than the day we finished it.

These films were recognized alongside blockbusters such as “Carrie”, “Hairspray”, “When Harry Met Sally” and “Iron Man”.

These are the movies that entered the Library of Congress this year:

  • Mardi Gras Carnival (1898)
  • Cab Calloway Home Movies (1948-1951)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
  • Charade (1963)
  • Scorpio Rising (1963)
  • Behind Every Good Man (1967)
  • Titicut Follies (1967)
  • Mingus (1968)
  • Manzanar (1971)
  • Betty Tells Her Story (1972)
  • Super Fly (1972)
  • Attica (1974)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Union Maids (1976)
  • Word is Out: Stories of Our Lives (1977)
  • Bush Mama (1979)
  • The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
  • Itam Hakim, Hopiit (1984)
  • Hairspray (1988)
  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Tongues Untied (1989)
  • When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  • House Party (1990)
  • Iron Man (2008)
  • Pariah (2011)

With these new additions, the total number of films rises to 850, although only 24 of them are Latino films, or 3% of the total, and which reflects the low representation of the Latino community in mainstream US culture, as they are the largest minority, comprising 62 million people and an enormous talent pool, but their presence in the country’s cultural scene does not correspond to the footprint they make in the country itself.

The following Latino movies are in the US Library of Congress:

  • “Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” (1982)
  • “Buena Vista Social Club” (1999)
  • “Chicana” (1979)
  • “Chulas Fronteras” (1976)
  • “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950)
  • “Devil Never Sleeps” (1994)
  • “Drácula” (Spanish language version) 1931
  • “El Mariachi” (1992)
  • “El Norte” (1983)
  • “Fuentes Family Home Movies” (1920s-1930s)
  • “I Am Joaquín” (1969)
  • “La Bamba” (1987)
  • “Modesta” (1956)
  • “La Perla” (1948)
  • “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive!” (1976)
  • “Real Women Have Curves” (2002)
  • “Requiem-29″ (1970)
  • “Revenge of Pancho Villa” (1930-36)
  • “Salt of the Earth” (1954),
  • “Selena” (1997)
  • “Stand and Deliver” (1988)
  • “Verbena Trágica” (1939)
  • “West Side Story” (1961)
  • “Zoot Suit” (1981)