Top Ten Movies
about the Indians of Central & South America

The film must be moving, thought-provoking, and visually exciting. It should show Native American customs and culture. And of course the Indians should be the main focus. Elsewhere on this site I have included some great movies in which Indians don't appear on screen that much (such as Aguirre), and others in which I wasn't sure if they were Indians (such as El Violin). These are excellent films, but in order to make this Top Ten list here, it must clearly be a Native American movie first and foremost.

Of course, the fun part about top ten lists is arguing about them, so if you disagree-- ¡escríbame, cabrón!

First Category:

EL ABRAZO DE LA SERPIENTE ~ Ciro Guerra ~ 2015 ~ Colombia
a mind-bending journey of self-discovery ~ unforgettable characters ~ explores Amazonian concepts of time and spirituality

ALTIPLANO ~ Peter Brosens & Jessica Hope Woodworth ~ 2009 ~ Perú
poetic & symbolic ~ both a work of art and an urgent call to action ~ unique blend of indigenous tradition & modernism

APOCALYPTO ~ Mel Gibson ~ 2006 ~ México
pulse-pounding edge-of-your-seat action ~ amazingly detailed costumes & sets ~ funky hats

BRAVA GENTE BRASILEIRA ~ Lúcia Murat 2001 ~ Brasil
subtle storytelling told mainly through images ~ viewer is invited to wonder & speculate ~ cool tattoos

CHAC: THE RAIN GOD ~ Rolando Klein ~ 1975 ~ México
hypnotic feel ~ many aspects of Chamula culture shown ~ indigenous aesthetic ~ all Indians ~ no White Man, man

ERENDIRA IKIKUNARI ~ Juan Mora Catlett ~ 2007 ~ México
inspiring character drawn from oral tradition ~ cool body paint & costumes ~ highly original style ~ gratuitous beheadings

THE MISSION ~ Roland Joffé ~ 1986 ~ Paraguay
gorgeous cinematography of nature and Guarani Indians ~ riveting story told with epic momentum

SANTO LUZBEL ~ Miguel Sabido ~ 1997 ~ México
fascinating assortment of realistic, fleshed-out characters ~ spot-on portrait of modern México ~ full of life and humor

TAMBIEN LA LLUVIA ~ Icíar Bollaín ~ 2010 ~ Bolivia
riveting story of the Bolivian water wars of the 90s juxtaposed with the filming of the Spanish conquest of the Tainos

VERONICO CRUZ ~ Miguel Pereira ~ 1988 ~ Argentina
extremely moving story ~ poetic, subtle & understated ~ beautifully developed friendship between boy and teacher

Second Category:

CABEZA DE VACA ~ Nicolás Echevarría ~ 1991 ~ México
incredible story ~ bizarre sights & sounds recreate the strangeness of first contact ~ Oscar-worthy armless midget

IN NECUEPALIZTLI IN AZTLAN ~ Juan Mora Catlett ~ 1989 ~ México
churns forward with mythic weight and a feeling of inevitability ~ dream-like quality ~ may induce visions

JERICO ~ Luis Alberto Lamata ~ 1990 ~ Venezuela
bizarre events contrast with philosophical narration ~ subtle & convincing character change ~ ayahuasca freakout scene

A LENDA DE UBIRAJARA ~ André Luiz Oliveira ~ 1975 ~ Brasil
pre-Columbian adventure simmering in testosterone ~ hilarious dialogue full of Homeric pomposity ~ skimpy thongs

EL REGALO DE PACHAMAMA ~ Toshifumi Matsushita ~ 2008 ~ Bolivia
beautiful recreation of a vanishing way of life ~ a love poem to the earth and to a community who respects it

TERRA VERMELHA ~ Marco Bechis ~ 2008 ~ Brasil
intense conflict between Indians and landowners ~ no easy answers ~ unique characters

YA-KOO ~ Franco Rubartelli ~ 1985 ~ Venezuela
entertaining jungle romp provides an affirmation of Yanomami knowledge & culture ~ ridiculously cute kid

YAWAR MALLKU ~ Jorge Sanjinés ~ 1969 ~ Bolivia
shocking story told with militant urgency ~ take-no-prisoners guerilla filmmaking ~ stark, iconic black & white cinematography

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