The Chicago Latino Film Festival poses a problem—a good problem, but a problem nevertheless. There are simply too many interesting programs to see, and as any cinephile is loath to admit, we’re but singular bodies unable to be in more than one place at the same time.
This year’s edition presents the same dilemma, but, as a holdover from deep pandemic years, select films will be available to rent and stream online, thus allowing for some flexibility. (Note that the virtual options are available to view in blocks: from April 22 to 26; from April 27 to May 1; and from April 30 to May 1.)
In-person screenings will take place at three venues: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, the ChiTown Movies drive-in, and Instituto Cervantes downtown. The opening night event, a drive-in screening of Panamanian director Abner Benaim’s Plaza Catedral (2021), screens at ChiTown Movies on Thursday, April 21 at 7:30 PM. In the film, a well-to-do real estate agent whose young son was killed in a freak accident begins looking after a young boy from the streets.
French illustrator Aurel brings to life the story of Catalan cartoonist Josep Bartolí in the animated film Josep (2020), which spans the artist’s internment in a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War and his several-year love affair with artist Frida Kahlo. Most feature presentations include an accompanying short film; with Josep screens Chilean filmmakers Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s The Bones, purporting to be a 1901 silent film “rediscovered” in the year 2023. This eerie black-and-white stop-motion animation finds a young woman evoking the spirits of two figures from Chilean history (one of whom the real-life girl was in a relationship with at the age of 15) instrumental in originating and, later, revising the country’s constitution.
Chicago Latino Film Festival
April 21-May 1
Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, ChiTown Movies drive-in, Instituto Cervantes; $10-$100. chicagolatinofilmfestival.org
Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria Bastón takes on the compelling fight, both in and out of the ring, between boxing superstars Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in La Guerra Civil (2022). The documentary makes the case that, more than any other sport, boxing confronts aspects of the athletes’ heritage, here focusing on the contentious dynamic between the Los Angeles-born De La Hoya and the Mexican-born Chávez as it relates to their respective backgrounds.
In Federico Adorno’s Boreal (2021), three men are tasked with building their boss a fence in a remote location in the Paraguayan Chaco, where they’re left for weeks at a time with little information, a situation that recalls Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Celina Escher’s 2021 documentary Fly So Far also covers a long period of time without resolution; the film is about a Salvadoran woman named Teodora Vásquez who served nine years of a 30-year sentence for murder after her baby was stillborn.
Internalized misogyny can be monstrous, as reflected in Brazilian writer-director Anita Rocha da Silveira’s Medusa (2021), wherein groups of pious young women attack other women whom they deem to be promiscuous or otherwise sinful. One of the attackers changes her tune when she’s targeted herself, discovering the power inherent to those characteristics she once derided. Hallucinatory visuals reminiscent of Dario Argento (whom Rocha da Silveira has cited as an influence) meet plot mechanics similar to those in Carrie, with musical elements also thrown into the mix, resulting in a transgressive blend that targets outdated mores.
Cinephiles will especially enjoy Javier Espada’s documentary Buñuel, a Surrealist Filmmaker (2021), which is one of the special screenings taking place at the Instituto Cervantes. The closing night film, Chilean director Francisca Alegría’s The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future, which screens at the ChiTown Movies drive-in, is not surrealistic so much as it is magical realist in its consideration of ecological issues vis-à-vis its central narrative focused on a dysfunctional family.
Above are but a smattering of the films available to watch in person or virtually at the Chicago Latino Film Festival; in addition to the obvious ones, categories delineated by the festival include animation, experimental, fantasy, horror, LGBTQ+, musicals, sci-fi, and thrillers. Check the festival website (chicago latinofilmfestival.org) for more information about what’s playing, how and where to view the films, and ticketing.