The 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival runs Friday, April 12, through Thursday, April 25. 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, all at 600 N. Michigan; for a full schedule see latinoculturalcenter.org.
The Devil’s Hole In this derivative gore fest from the Dominican Republic (2012), college friends take a trip to the countryside but wind up in a road accident that sends their car tumbling into a deep ravine. Bloodied and bruised, they take refuge in an abandoned house, only to find out it’s haunted by the spirit of an evil warlord who tortured peasants from a nearby village. There’s plenty more plot where that came from, but the storytelling is so incoherent that none of it resonates. Director Francis Disla Ferreira is clearly more concerned with blood and guts, orchestrating a number of elaborate murder scenes that nevertheless lack panache. In Spanish with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 95 min. Sat 4/13, 6 PM, and Mon 4/15, 7:45 PM.
A Long Journey Lucia Murat, a veteran documentary maker in Brazil, tells the story of her younger brother, Heitor, who was sent to London by his parents in the late 60s so he wouldn’t get mixed up in revolutionary politics like his sister. Instead, he spent a decade bopping around the world (Athens, Sydney, Kabul, Rishikesh, New York) and trying every drug he could get his hands on, until eventually he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Murat draws heavily on letters Heitor wrote back in the day, which detail his wanderings but lack the self-knowledge necessary to transform this prosaic family memoir into the poetic evocation of the Vietnam generation that she clearly intends it to be. An aging and rather dissipated Heitor sits for extensive interviews, which do little to dispel the sense of a leisure-class kid’s decade of self-indulgence being repackaged as a spiritual quest. In Portuguese with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 98 min. Sat 4/13, 10:15 PM, and Wed 4/17, 8:15 PM.
On the Line In this Ecuadoran drama, a single mother spends a chaotic afternoon juggling myriad work and personal responsibilities while her 13-year-old son faces expulsion from school after acting up one too many times. Shot in real time amid the busy streets of Guayaquil, the film features some nice handheld-camera work that heightens the action and alleviates the triviality of the plotting. The protagonist spends most of the film on her cell phone, hustling from place to place while barking orders at her assistant; each time she accomplishes a task, it seems, another falls into her lap, which leaves her son to ponder his fate. David Nieto Wenzell directed this pleasant if ordinary tale about the dangers of putting work before everything else. In Spanish with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 76 min. Tue 4/16, 6 PM, and Thu 4/18, 9:15 PM.
Orange Honey A young soldier in 1950, working as personal secretary to a military judge of the Franco regime, is shaken when his boss orders the political execution of a young man who cared for the soldier’s sick mother. Before long the hero has been recruited by the antifascist underground, and this 2012 Spanish feature begins to partake of certain plot mechanics familiar from recent potboilers about anti-Nazi conspirators (Flame & Citron, Winter in Wartime). This is competently done, but I must confess that I had to watch it from a preview DVD with a big studio logo smack in the middle of the frame, so anyone showing up for this is likely to enjoy it more than I did. Imanol Uribe directed. In Spanish with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 101 min. Fri 4/12, 5 PM, and Sun 4/14, 9:15 PM.
Porcelain Horse This is hardly the worst debut feature I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly among the laziest: the main character dispenses an endless stream of expository voice-over to explain what we’re seeing onscreen, and whenever the action is challenging to stage—a fight that ends in someone’s death, for instance—writer-director Javier Andrade simply enacts it offscreen, covering his tracks with an arty static shot. The narrator and his brother are the grown, spoiled children of an Ecuadoran politician; the older one works in a bank, carrying on a longtime affair with a married woman, while the younger fronts a godawful punk band, sleeping with the woman’s husband so he’ll put some bucks behind the act. The characters are all too mean and charmless to redeem the air of ruling-class decadence. In Spanish with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 104 min. Mon 4/15, 6 PM, and Wed 4/17, 6:15 PM.
SofÍa and the Stubborn Man Plenty of filmmakers have employed fairy-tale trappings to tell stories about emotionally stunted adults, but in this Colombian feature the approach feels warranted: had the story been presented any other way, it might have been unwatchably sad. Almodovar regular Carmen Maura plays a passive, childlike woman who’s never left her isolated village; the “stubborn man” is her husband, a benign tyrant who’s kept her from ever leaving. Maura’s endearing, mainly silent performance recalls Giulietta Masina in Nights of Cabiria, and the colorful production design evokes Disney cartoons. Writer-director Andrés Burgos doesn’t really transform these references into anything unique, but the movie is touching all the same. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 82 min. Wed 4/17, 6:30 PM, and Thu 4/18, 8:45 PM.
Things the Way They Are This resourceful low-budget drama from Chile begins as a gentle character study of a wealthy, emotionally repressed man who becomes infatuated with the sexy exchange student in his apartment building. Writer-director Fernando Lavanderos seems to be heading into Eric Rohmer territory, making wry observations about the leisure class and the mating rituals of educated young people. Before the movie can settle into a familiar groove, though, he introduces the possibility that it might turn into a psychological thriller. The filmmaking never feels programmatic; Lavanderos realizes the characters so well that their behavior seems plausible even when it defies expectation, and his portrait of contemporary Santiago is pretty immersive too. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 94 min. Wed 4/17, 9 PM, and Fri 4/19, 8 PM.
The Towrope After a husband and wife are killed by rebel soldiers, their teenage daughter escapes to her uncle’s cabin in a remote part of Colombia to begin a new life. That’s about it in terms of plot—this debut feature by William Vega is largely an exercise in ambiguity for its own sake, indulging in slow, uneventful scenes whose meaning is deliberately unclear. The approach bears a superficial resemblance to recent breakthroughs by Lisandro Alonso (Los Muertes) and Cristi Puiu (Aurora), but Vega lacks their deep understanding of suspense and aberrant psychology; his long shots, however pretty, lack dramatic impact. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 89 min. Fri 4/12, 9:30 PM, and Mon 4/15, 6:15 PM.