Happy Friday! This week’s “global TV to watch” features five titles to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in the US.
Observed annually from September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and LatinX Americans past and present — specifically those whose ancestors hail from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America — acknowledging and paying tribute to them and the myriad ways they have influenced and enriched the nation and society of the US. Let’s celebrate them with these five TV series and films.
This film is utterly delightful! I was reminded of it when I was writing about Nada, because the child star in Valentin, Rodrigo Noya, is a costar in the new TV series. In the dramedy film, Noya plays Valentin, a precious and precocious 8-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother (Carmen Maura, Someone Has to Die) and dreams of being an astronaut. His father is a playboy whose latest girlfriend, Leticia (Julieta Cardinali, Maradona: Blessed Dream), is lovely young woman who develops a beautiful rapport with Valentin. But then sad things come to pass for Valentin and others, and he decides to step in and help where he can. The ending is wonderful!
Caravan of Death (Chile)
This four-part biopic-historical drama tells the story of human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz. When she was in her 20s, Carmen (María Gracia Omegna, La Jauría) met and married journalist Carlos Berger (Francisco Celhay, The House of Flowers). With the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile, when General Augusto Pinochet led the military takeover of the country, Berger was targeted as a political dissident, arrested, imprisoned, and executed by the notorious Caravan of Death. For decades, Carmen (played in her 30s onward by Aline Küppenheim, 42 Days of Darkness) fights to get justice for her husband while working as a human rights lawyer, as well as being threatened by Pinochet’s secret police for much of that time.
The Great Heist (Colombia)
Inspired by the true events, this six-episode crime thriller follows a group of thieves who plot an ambitious heist: to steal millions from Colombia’s Bank of the Republic. Well, they succeed. In October 1994, they make off with the equivalent of US$33 million — a crime that came to be known as “the robbery of the century” in the country. But this is not the end of the story, as there is no honor amongst these thieves…
The Great Heist is currently available for streaming globally on Netflix.
This comedy-drama series follows Victoria (Macarena Achaga, Luis Miguel: The Series) and Julio (Jorge López, Operación Marea Negra), whose parents were at the center of a financial scandal that wiped out the fortunes of some of Latin America’s most powerful families more than a decade ago. Since then, the two have not seen or communicated with each other, but both have had a hard time financially and socially. What Victoria and Julio have working for them, though, are their genetics and aspects of their privileged upbringing, namely their good looks and good manners.
So each of them decides to put their assets to work to get themselves out of their respective messes. Victoria changes her identity to “Marie Claire Lebrun,” while Julio becomes “Michi Montefusco,” and, unbeknownst to either of them, both are plotting to join the world of the ultra-wealthy Urquiza family. Then fate steps in and reunites them more than a decade after they last saw each other — causing old resentments and remnants of their former romance to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Except now they’re competing against each other for the same fortune, while others in their midst are scheming for their own advantage…
Merlí: Season 1 (Spain)
Only the first season of this dramedy series has been shown in the US, and it is awesome. Intelligent and witty, this Spanish- and Catalan-language series revolves around Merlí Bergeron (Francesc Orella, Días mejores, Santa Evita), a sarcastic, self-absorbed, and hedonistic divorcé who lands a job teaching philosophy at his son Bruno’s (David Solans, Heirs to the Land, Under Suspicion) high school. Merlí instructs his students, aka the Peripatetics, to think about their lives like renowned philosophers did, and what they learn from the ideologies of Aristotle, Plato, the Skeptics, the Sophists, and others (which become the themes of the show’s storylines), they use to help solve their problems.
However, Merlí’s unorthodox teaching style, overstepping of bounds, lack of respect for the rules, and blunt, unfiltered way of communicating, upset the status quo and put him at odds with many of the staff and parents, and occasionally the students, too. Merlí is a hot mess, which contributes to what makes this show (at least the first season) so brilliant.
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