The opening week of a ten-day festival of features, shorts, and documentaries from 16 Latin American countries, Spain, and the United States, sponsored by Columbia College. Unless otherwise noted, all screenings will be held at Columbia College Getz Theatre, 72 E. 11th St., Friday, June 19, through Sunday, June 28. Tickets to most screenings are $4, $3 students and seniors, and are good for the whole evening’s program; for information, call 782-4211.

THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES Singer-songwriter Ruben Blades (star of the salsa-beat Crossover Dreams) returns to his native Panama to perform and talk politics (Latin American self-definition vis-a-vis the big neighbor to the north) in a documentary by Robert Mugge, whose musical bios generally tread a line between the ethnologically offbeat and the musicologically hip (Black Wax, Gospel According to Al Green). Writer Pete Hamill conducts some of the interviews with Blades and Linda Ronstadt joins the singer in a recording-studio duet. (PG) Two short films will precede the main feature: Paulina Ponce’s animated Filemon y la gorda and Angelo Restivo’s The Blue Bouquet, based on a story by Octavio Paz. (Friday, June 19, 8:30)

PANAMA: THE FIFTH FRONTIER Pastor Vega’s Cuban documentary on the history of the Panama Canal. Vega uses archival footage to examine the circumstances of the canal’s construction as well as its ambiguous impact on Panamanian society. (PG) (Saturday, June 20, 6:00)

UP TO A CERTAIN POINT A short feature by Cuba’s Tomas Gutierrez Alea (Memories of Underdevelopment); it seems to be a part of an official government assault on the problem of “machismo” in Cuban society, although Alea is able to lighten the schematism inherent in propaganda films with a fairly open shooting style and attractive performances. Assigned to do a documentary on women working in jobs traditionally held by men, a famous Cuban writer finds himself falling in love with his principal subject, a feisty female dockhand, but is ultimately unable to accept her independence. (DK) (Saturday, June 20, 7:30)

SEGUIN Jesus Salvador Trevino’s hour-long reconstruction of the life of 19th-century Hispanic leader Juan Seguin, who played a crucial role in the struggle between the U.S. and Mexico over the control of Texas; the film has been described as “a Chicano answer to John Wayne’s The Alamo,” revising Wayne’s portrayal of Mexicans as drunken bandits and sluttish senoritas. The director will be present at the screening. (PG) (Saturday, June 20, 9:00)

ON THE BORDER Peter Torbiornsson’s documentary on the plight of refugees trying to enter the United States from war-torn Central America. The film traces the northward journey of refugee groups and describes the problems they face in forging a better life for themselves in the U.S. (PG) Also on the program are Hugo Gamarra’s half-hour Paraguayan documentary Pilgrimage to Caacupe, about a 400th anniversary commemoration of a religious apparition; Elisabeth P. Montgomery’s Armero Night of Ashes, a study of the Colombian community leveled by a 1985 volcanic eruption; and Cine Mujer’s ten-minute short And What Does Your Mother Do?, which follows a woman whizzing through her daily domestic chores. (PG) (Sunday, June 21, 2:00)

THE BATTLE OF VIEQUES Zydnia Nazario’s 40-minute documentary examination of the American naval base at Vieques, an island satellite of Puerto Rico, and the controversy surrounding the continued U.S. military presence there. (PG) (Sunday, June 21, 6:00)

GAIJIN: A BRAZILIAN ODYSSEY Three Japanese immigrants struggle to survive on a coffee plantation in early 20th-century Brazil. The director, Tizuka Yamasaki, was once an assistant to Nelson Pereira dos Santos; this was her first feature film (1979). (DK) (Sunday, June 21, 6:45)

CHILE, WHEN WILL IT END? David Bradbury’s Sydney Film Festival prizewinner is an hour-long study of Chilean injustice and the institutionalized inequalities–social, economic, and cultural–that help perpetuate the system of military rule. (PG) (Sunday, June 21, 8:45)

FRIDA Paul Leduc’s film on the celebrated painter, wife (of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera), and feminist activist before her time, Frida Kahlo. With Ofelia Medina, Max Kerlow, and Ziuta Kerlow, all of whom will be present at this Chicago premiere screening. (PG) (Three Penny, Wednesday, June 24, 6:30 and 9:00, admission $5.50 this program only; call 782-4211 or 327-3184 to reserve ahead)

THE EYES OF THE BIRDS A Red Cross team investigates an Uruguayan prison in a fictional film “based on true events.” Gabriel Auer directed this French production, which stars Roland Amstutz, Philippe Clevenot, and Raquel Iruzubieta. (DK) (Thursday, June 25, 6:00)

MOUNTAIN MUSIC OF PERU Hour-long documentary on the traditional music and rituals of Andean Indian culture; John Cohen directed. The film will be followed by Estela Bravo’s Missing Children, a short documentary on the efforts of Argentinean mothers and grandmothers to locate their missing kin during the recently ended era of military rule. (PG) (Thursday, June 25, 7:30)

ZOOT SUIT Luis Valdez directed this transcription of his own stage production, a Brechtian musical about the Los Angeles anti-Chicano “Zoot Suit” riots of 1942. The staging is busy and clever, though it doesn’t translate that well to film, given Valdez’s tendency to cut the legs off his dancers. The dialogue is mostly sub-Odets, and Valdez unconsciously contributes to the racism he is attacking by linking each character’s moral quality to how well he or she speaks English. Still, there is a slithery, sinister, athletic performance by Edward James Olmos as the voice of Pachuco consciousness, and nice support from several new faces (1981). (DK) (Thursday, June 25, 9:25)