'Frida': Hispanic Heritage Month Must-See Movies

Today's movie recommendation is the acclaimed, Academy Award-winning film "Frida," about the life and times of Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Frida Salma Hayek

(c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

It's a striking, relevant, and historically important cinematic portrait of painter Frida Kahlo and her life with husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera. We highly recommend director Julie Taymor's 2002 biopic "Frida" for Hispanic Heritage Month, starring Salma Hayek in an Oscar-nominated performance.

The Film

For years, producers Salma Hayek, Nancy Hardin, and Lizz Speed, and others had all been trying to make a film about the artist. It was only, though, when her artwork became more well-known in the '90s, that the project started to gain momentum.

When Hayek first expressed interest in playing the role in the early '90s, she was told she was too young for the part. It would take another decade before the film was actually produced, with other actresses including Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Laura San Giacomo all attached at various times to the lead role.

Hayek persevered, and eventually combined forces with others looking to make the film. By the late '90s, the cast had been assembled, with Hayek's choice of Alfred Molina set to star as Diego Rivera. Other A-listers in the ensemble included Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton, Geoffrey Rush, and Ashley Judd.

(c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

(c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

The story covers Kahlo's life, from a traumatic car accident injury in 1922 at age 18, to her recovery and rise as an important surrealist painter. After the accident, Frida visits muralist Diego Rivera, and they begin a life-long love affair as spouses, divorcees and eventually married once more.

The movie depicts the extramarital relationships of both husband and wife, and how those experiences translated into Frida's work. It also shows the struggles the artists encountered in America, after Rivera was commissioned to create a mural for the wealthy Rockefeller family – only to have them reject his ideas as being too leftist.

Later affairs between Rivera and Kahlo's sister Cristina, and Kahlo and revolutionary Leon Trotsky, left the couple's relationship in shambles. Kahlo would also suffer more health struggles. Near the end of her life, she and Rivera did reunite, and the film – fitting for the visionary painter – does an amazing job of melding its incredible visuals with Hayek's indelible performance.

Hispanic Heritage Month Connections

"Frida" remains the definitive cinematic portrait of the Hispanic painter and all of the aspects of her artistry, including her culture, unique history and the relationship between Kahlo and Rivera. It's also one of Salma Hayek's defining performances. In addition to its six Oscar nominations (and two wins for Best Makeup and Original Score), the film won Imagen Awards (recognizing positive portrayals of Latinos in entertainment) for Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Drama Picture.

Why You Should See It

If you're looking for great films about important Hispanic figures during Hispanic Heritage Month, or if you're just a huge Salma Hayek fan, this is an absolute movie must-see. It's an enduring film that captures the creativity, passion, and intelligence of this original icon, whose works still capture the world's imagination.

Did You Know

Salma Hayek, like Frida Kahlo, is also a native of Mexico, although they have different ancestry. Hayek is of Lebanese and Spanish ancestry, while Kahlo is of German and Mestiza (Spanish and Native American) ancestry. For the film, Hayek also contributed some of her own paintings to the production.

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Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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