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Best of 2015: Which Latino Films and Stars Had a Breakout year?

First Posted: Dec 03, 2015 02:47 PM EST

As the year comes to a close, Latin Post will begin looking at the best in film in 2015. This year has been a banner year for Latinos in cinema as many films have taken top prizes at international film festivals, starred in high profile films or had breakout performances. Here is a list of the accomplishments in cinema for Latinos.

Latinos at International Film Festivals

The festival circuit has always been dominated by European films as well as American cinema. Latin American cinema has been prominent but rarely has it won top awards.

This year things changed.

It all started at Sundance where Alfonso Gomez Rejon took home the Grand Jury Prize for his work on "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" while Brazil's Oscar selection "The Second Mother" went home with the special Jury Prize in the World Cinema competition.

A month later at Berlin, Chile's "The Club" by Pablo Larrain took home the Grand Jury Prize at the Festival while Chile's "The Pearl Button" by Patricio Guzman took home the Best Screenplay award. Sebastian Silva also won the Teddy Award for outstanding LGBT film for his work on "Nasty Baby" while Gabriel Ripstein won the Best First Feature award for his film "600 Miles."

In May Cannes saw the premiere of many Latino films to high praise and saw Mexican director Michel Franco win the Best Screenplay Award for "Chronic." In the Critics Week Sidebar, Argentine director Santiago Mitre won the top prize for his film "Paulina" while "La Tierray La Sombra" won the Golden Camera award for First Feature. That film by Colombian director Cesar Augusto Acevedo was among the two highly praised Colombian films at the festival.

The amazing year ended at the Venice Film Festival where Venezuela won the Golden Lion for the film "Desde Alla," which became the first Venezuelan film to win the top award and was quickly obtained for distribution. Argentina's Pablo Trapero won the Best Director award for his Oscar selected "El Clan."

Breakout stars

 It's hard to find breakouts when Latinos are not given enough roles in Hollywood. However, this year there were multiple in films. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez was among these stars as she led the critically acclaimed "Tangerine." When the film premiered at the festival people were astonished by the fact that the film was shot on an IPhone. However, what was more shocking was how two debutantes could carry a film in such a powerful way. Rodriguez immerses herself into her character and truly makes for a wild ride. For her amazing work she has already garnered nominations for the Gotham and Indie Spirit Awards and she is currently campaigning for an Oscar nomination.

Sundance also saw Alfonso Gomez-Rejon breakout. The director had previously helmed another film but that one went under the radar and quickly disappeared. However he took Sundance by storm, winning both the audience award and the Grand Jury Prize with his audacious "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." He also became the first latino to be featured on ther cover of Filmmaker Magazine.

Sebastian Silva also had a breakout year in his own respect. He made his acting debut in a film that he also directed. With "Nasty Baby" he not only won international festivals but also created a story that was talked about by critics and audiences long after it was seen.

Dascha Polanco was also among this year's breakouts as she not only starred in the hit television series "Orange is the new Black" but she scored a key role in David O. Russell's upcoming film "Joy."

Finally Raymond Ochoa voiced the lead in "The Good Dinosaur" and created a fantastic animated character that resonated with families and critics.

Banner Years

This year a number of Latino stars had years to remember in some of the top selling films of the year. Oscar Isaac was among the stars as he began the year with "A Most Violent Year," which won him the National Board of Review award for Best Actor and also brought him critical attention. He followed it up with "Ex Machina," which was box office breakout and is now up for the British Independent Film Awards. The actor was also at Tribeca with "Mojave," a film that premieres this month and will end the year with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Meanwhile, Michael Pena created three memorable roles. He started the year in the horror genre with "The Vatican Tapes" and later went on to steal the scenes in "Ant-Man." Finally he was featured in "The Martian," which has now become a huge Oscar contender.

Benicio del Toro also had quite year as he had three films at the Cannes Film Festival and in the summer he was seen as Pablo Escobar in "Escobar: Paradise Lost." In the fall his Cannes film "Sicario" was released to rave reviews and also scored a breakout box office. Del Toro is now receiving Oscar buzz for his turn in the film and has already received teh Hollywood Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.

John Leguizamo also continued to show why he is one of the most versatile and important Latino actors working today. The actor appeared in the heartbreaking "Meadowland," where he played a depressed father, whose daughter was murdered and showcased his dramatic skills. In the summer he appeared in "American Ultra" alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart and at Sundance he was a revelation in "Experimenter," a film that went on to play at the New York Film Festival and has also been nominated for the Gotham awards.

Another actor who really brought magic to the silver screen was Edgar Ramirez. After starring in a number of big blockbusters in 2014, the actor leads the cast in the remake for "Point Break" and is garnering awards attention for his role in "Joy." In that new Russell film he plays Jennifer Lawrence's husband and based on Russell's work, it is likely this will be an incredible role for Ramirez.

Finally, Bobby Cannavale showed off his dramatic and comedic chops earlier this year in "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy as well as in the Sundance hit "Adult Beginners." He also played Al Pacino's son in "Danny Collins" and ended his year in "Ant-Man" alongside Pena.

With such a great year, Latin America sare proving that there can be leading roles for the demographic and it is only getting easier for them to succeed.

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