The 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, April 20 through 26. Tickets for most screenings are $11, $10 for members of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago; a festival pass, good for 12 general admissions, is $100, $80 for ILCC members. Following are selected screenings; for a full schedule see latinoculturalcenter.org.
Chinese Take-Away In the opening scene of this Argentinean comedy, a cow drops out of the sky and kills a young woman on a rowboat just as her lover is about to propose marriage. It’s a gag straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but somehow writer-director Sebastian Borensztein manages to enlarge the movie’s scope beyond the narrow parameters of farce. The irascible owner of a Buenos Aires hardware store (Ricardo Darin of The Secret in Their Eyes) grudgingly takes in a lost and confused Chinese tourist who speaks no Spanish but has a local street address tattooed on his arm. Both men are haunted by traumatic pasts, and the fact that this story element works at all says a great deal about Darin’s magnetic presence and the breadth of Borensztein’s black humor. In subtitled Spanish and purposely unsubtitled Mandarin. —J.R. Jones 90 min. Screens as part of the festival’s “Tribute to Argentina.” Tickets are $75, $65 for ILCC members, and include a reception after the screening. Wed 4/25, 6 PM, River East 21
The Other Family Through an implausible series of events, a wealthy gay couple in Mexico City become the fathers of an eight-year-old boy abandoned by his poor, crack-addicted mother. This leads to other, equally implausible situations, such as the couple having to allay the suspicions of their homophobic gardener (why they hired him is never explained) and protect the boy from a sleazy DJ who wants to sell him to child traffickers. Had writer-director Gustavo Loza acknowledged the absurdity of his story, he could have made this a campy comedy; playing the material as melodrama, he still arrives at some big laughs, but not intentionally. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 128 min. Fri 4/20, 6 PM, and Mon 4/23, 8:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Pescador After a package containing a few dozen kilos of cocaine washes up on the beach, a naive fisherman in Ecuador journeys to the city of Guayaquil to sell them, hoping that the proceeds will impress his estranged father and the girl of his dreams. Director Sebastian Cordero turns this fact-based story into a shaggy-dog joke rather than a cautionary tale, and though it’s never as funny or suspenseful as his previous feature, Rabia (2009), it’s energetic and socially observant. Cordero is one of the few 21st-century filmmakers who recognize the economic desperation at the heart of classic film noir; his work conveys an authentic grittiness and urgency. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 95 min. Sat 4/21, 9:45 PM, and Sun 4/22, 6:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Under My Nails A young nail technician (Kisha Burgos) is both frightened and excited by the violent sex she overhears in the apartment next to hers, and even climbs out on her window ledge to spy on the husband and wife going at it. After the wife disappears, the heroine is swept into a similarly rough relationship with the husband (Ivan Camilo) and begins to suspect him of having murdered his spouse. With all the creepy S-M overtones, this erotic thriller from Puerto Rico initially reminded me of Michael Rowe’s disturbing Mexican feature Leap Year (2010), but eventually it settles into the more mundane did-he-or-didn’t-he dynamic of such Hollywood chestnuts as Gaslight and Suspicion. Ari Maniel Cruz directed; the dialogue shifts continually from English to Spanish, both subtitled. —J.R. Jones 100 min. Thu 4/19, 6:45 PM, and Sat 4/21, 7 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre