With a rich history of cultural and political change, Latin American documentaries can help a traveler better understand what they see in South America.
South America is a region with an incredible history of Indigenous culture, European colonization, and eventual revolution. We often only hear one perspective so it's good to listen to alternative views, particularly those from Latin Americans, about the history of a country and how it affects the culture today.
Many people study Latin American history and politics for years and this is not needed for travels in the region, but it is easy to rent a DVD or watch documentaries online for free to understand how these countries were shaped into what they are today.
War on Democracy
This 2007 documentary from John Pilger was screened in Cannes and gives a broad perspective of the United States intervening in politics of foreign countries as a means to address its "War on Terror" and focuses on Latin America including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Chile since the 1950s.
This is an important Latin American documentary as you will see how past American governments played a role in the politics and economy in South America.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Hugo Chavez may have passed on but this is a very important documentary from 2002 to get a better understanding of the history of Venezuela. It focuses on the coup which may or may not have been with help from the United States, depending on who you speak with.
The title from this Latin American documentary is a a poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron, the original documentary was intended to be about then President Hugo Chavez by an Irish television team.
They happened to be there filming on April 11, 2002 and the focus was then shifted to the coup where eventually the community in the neighborhoods of Caracas took to the streets and demanded he return.
Argentina`s Economic Collapse
Many travelers are drawn to the capital city Buenos Aires, known to many as the Paris of South America. However, few understand the tumultuous economic history of Argentina.
Its instability is demonstrated in the street with daily peaceful protests by unions. Understanding its history with foreign debt will give you a bit of insight into the country today as you will find many locals have opinions about how the government handles the economy.
When visiting Argentina it's important to listen and not jump in with your own thoughts as foreign opinions are not always considered polite.
While Colombia has had a turbulent past with a history of drug trafficking and guerilla violence, it is a much different place today and becoming a popular tourism destination.
But the War on Drugs is a complicated issue and the involvement of the US State Department has been scrutinized by many as a smokescreen to divert attention away from the nation's interest in Colombia oil and natural resources.
This documentary from 2003 provides an interesting alternative view of the issues of drugs and guerilla groups in Colombia leaving viewers to draw their own opinion.
South of the Border
South of the Border was directed by Oliver Stone and premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
A political road trip, Stone takes a crew down to South America to cover then President Hugo Chavez and how US media reports on politics in Latin America. Stone's perspective is that the politics in South America get limited or skewed attention. He interviews several presidents about the topic, including Cristina Kirchner and former president Néstor Kirchner of Argentina, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay.
The documentary was not received favorably in the United States, many felt that Stone did not raise really tough issues, particularly with Hugo Chavez. Whether that is true or not, it provides an interesting perspective on reporting of the political movement in Latin America even if it may not be balanced.
If you prefer to do your research for holidays by watching movies check out our top films about South America.