Latin American cinema refers collectively to the film output and film industries of Latin America. Latin American film is both rich and diverse, but the main centers of production have been Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Latin American cinema flourished after the introduction of sound, which added a linguistic barrier to the export of Hollywood film south of the border.
The origins of early filmmaking is generally associated with Salvador Toscano Barragán. In 1898 Toscano made Mexico's second film with a plot, titled Don Juan Tenorio. During the Mexican Revolution, Toscano recorded several clips of the battles, which would become a full-length documentary in 1950, assembled by his daughter. Other short films were either created or influenced from French film-makers. Mexican movies from the Golden Era in the 1940s and 1950s are significant examples of Latin American cinema. Mexican movies were exported and exhibited in all Latin America and Europe. The film Maria Candelaria (1944) by Emilio Fernández, won the Grand Prix in Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Famous actors and actresses from this period include María Félix, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, Jorge Negrete and comedian Cantinflas.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a movement towards Third Cinema, led by the Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino.
In Brazil, the Cinema Novo movement created a particular way of making movies with critical and intellectual screenplays, a clearer photography related to the light of the outdoors in a tropical landscape, and a political message. The film The Given Word / Keeper of Promises (1962) by Anselmo Duarte, won the Palme d'Or at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first (and to date the only) Brazilian film to achieve that feat. A year later, it also became the first Brazilian and South American film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Glauber Rocha was the key figure of the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement, famous for his trilogy of political films: Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol, Terra em Transe (1967) and O Dragão da Maldade Contra o Santo Guerreiro (1969), for which he won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Colombia, Carlos Mayolo, Luis Ospina and Andrés Caicedo led an alternative movement that was to have lasting influence, founding the Grupo de Cali, which they called Caliwood and producing some films as leading exponents of the "New Latin American Cinema" of the 1960s and 1970s, including Oiga, Vea, The Vampires of Poverty (Ospina) and Carne de tu carne (Mayolo) were produced in the 1980s and belong to a different aesthetics.
Cuban cinema has enjoyed much official support since the Cuban revolution, and important film-makers include Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.
In Argentina, after a series of military governments that shackled culture in general, the industry re-emerged after the 1976–1983 military dictatorship to produce The Official Story in 1985, becoming the first of only three Latin American movies to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Other nominees for Argentina were The Truce (1974), Pixote(1981)(directed by Hector Babenco), Camila (1984), Hombre mirando al sudeste(Man Facing Southeast directed by Eliseo Subiela)(1986), Tango (1998), Son of the Bride (2001), The Secret In Their Eyes (2009, which also won the award) and Wild Tales (2014).
More recently, a new style of directing and stories filmed has been tagged as "New Latin American Cinema," although this label was also used in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Mexico movies such as Como agua para chocolate (1992), Cronos (1993), Amores perros (2000), Y tu mamá también (2001), Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and Babel (2006) have been successful in creating universal stories about contemporary subjects, and were internationally recognised, as in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Mexican directors Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga have gone on to Hollywood success, with Cuaron and González Iñárritu becoming the only Latin Americans to win both the Academy Award and the Directors Guild of America award for Best Director.
The Argentine economic crisis affected the production of films in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but many Argentine movies produced during those years were internationally acclaimed, including El abrazo partido (2004), Roma (2004) and Nueve reinas (2000), which was the basis for the 2004 American remake Criminal.
The modern Brazilian film industry has become more profitable inside the country, and some of its productions have received prizes and recognition in Europe and the United States. The comedy film O Auto da Compadecida (2000) is considered a classic of Brazilian cinema and was a box-office hit in the country. Movies like Central Station (1998), City of God (2002) and Elite Squad (2007) have fans around the world, and its directors Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles and José Padilha, have taken part in American and European film projects. Central Station was nominated for 2 Academy Awards in 1999: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress for Fernanda Montenegro, who became the first (and to date the only) Brazilian, the first (and to date the only) Portuguese-speaking and the first Latin-American to be nominated for Best Actress. In 2003, City of God was nominated for 4 Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, it was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Elite Squad won the Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival.
There is a movement in the US geared towards promoting and exposing audiences to Latin American filmmakers. The New England Festival of Ibero American Cinema - which takes place in Providence, Rhode Island, is a good example.
According to PWC's Global Media Outlook 2019-2023 report, production levels for major film industries in Latin America is seeing an upward trend ever since 2014. By the end of 2018 there were 13,464 screens in Latin America. In case of Argentina there were 223 films released in 2018. In Peru, despite being one of the smallest Latin American markets has increased their screens to 661 in 2018 and would amount to 789 by 2023. Mexico continues to have the highest amount of screens with a total of 6,862 while Brazil next with 3,465 screens. In terms of revenues, the study projects steady growth in the region towards 2023. The box office is expected to rise from $2.4 billion raised in 2018 to $3.2 billion by 2023. This would represent a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 per cent for that period.
In Latin America in general, there has been renewed interest in animation ever since the late 2010s Ventana Sur's Animation! and Mexico's Pixelatl festivals have inaugurated the creative potential of animators to an international level. Two of Latin America's biggest animation companies are Mexico’ Ánima Estudios and Brazil's TV Pinguim. Together with the other animation houses in Latin America, they are bringing forth stories depicting the exotic locations of South America, the indigenous myths and legends, and universal themes that has the potential to have worldwide appeal. In 2017 alone more than 100 feature-length animated films were currently worked on in Central and South America. Financial backing is the only factor that holds back the Latin American animation industry such as those in Peru.