The 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival Arrives this Month

The 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) is here.

The Chicago Latino Film Festival is the longest running Iberoamerican film festival in the United States. Since 1984, CLFF has showcased films from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean and made by U.S. Latinos. The selections range in all genres and are enjoyed by thousands each year in Chicago. In 2023, CLFF celebrates its 39th year of continuously celebrating Latino filmmakers who tell their stories in many thought-provoking ways.

“Iberoamerican cinema has been delivering an abundance of riches since the turn of the century. Our program offers film lovers a sample of the diversity of topics, genres and forms embraced by these filmmakers as well as our trademark focus on the Indigenous and Afro-Latino experiences,” said Pepe Vargas, founder and executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago.

The Festival will run April 13th though the 23rd regular Festival with screenings at the Landmark Century Center and a special screening at the Instituto Cervantes. Opening and Closing Night galas will be held at the AMC River East 21 Theatres, 322 E. Illinois St. on April 13th and 22nd. The Festival is produced by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago (ILCC) and will present 51 features and 35 shorts.

The Opening Night selection is Claudia Sainte-Luce’s offbeat comedy Love & Mathematics (Thursday, April 13). In Love & Mathematics, Claudia Sainte-Luce (The Amazing Catfish) delivers a droll, offbeat and sometimes darkly funny comedy about glories past, consumerism and breaking away from social norms. Back in the day Billy Lozano used to be a member of the one-hit boy band Equinoccio. Today, he is a suburban stay-at-home dad in Monterrey, Mexico, taking care of his newborn child, patiently dealing with former female fans who want to take a selfie with him at the grocery store, and being part of his brother’s get-rich-quick schemes. But when his neighbor from across the street, a former fan herself, encourages him to resume his music career, Billy finally begins to see a way out of his doldrums.

Closing Night selection will be Patricia Ortega’s kinky and poignant comedy about sexual awakening among the elderly, Mamacruz (Saturday, April 22). Praised by Paste Magazine for lead actress Kiti Mánver’s (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) virtuosic performance after its premiere at Sundance this year, Mamacruz tells the story Cruz (Kiti Manver), a religiously devout woman who seeks affection from her dull husband. Both are taking care of their precocious granddaughter Viki after her mother leaves for Vienna in pursuit of a career as a professional dancer. One night, Cruz accidentally clicks on a porn website. Mortified at first, she finds herself rediscovering her own desires and seeks the help of a local women’s sex therapy group. Patricia Ortega’s new feature (her previous film, Yo imposible/Being Impossible, was an Official Selection of the 35th Chicago Latino Film Festival) is a sensitive and nuanced portrait of sexual reawakening.

“From the early days of cinema, Iberoamerican women have played a vital role in producing, screenwriting, acting, editing, and directing films. Today, a new generation of women filmmakers are following in the footsteps of these pioneers and creating work that is vibrant, original and groundbreaking. We’ve featured the work of both Claudia and Patricia in past festivals and their two new films, as different as night and day, will delight and challenge audiences,” said Pepe Vargas, founder & executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center and founder of the Festival.

Claudia Sainte-Luce is a Mexican writer, director, and actress. Born in Veracruz, she graduated in visual arts from the University of Guadalajara, made some short films, and worked as an assistant director for various Mexican films before writing her own scripts. Her debut feature The Amazing Catfish (an official selection of the 30th Chicago Latino Film Festival) premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, where it received the Best Film Award by the Young Jury. The film played at numerous international film festivals and won many prizes, including Best Latin American Film at Mar del Plata and Best Mexican Film at Los Cabos. In 2022 Claudia had the world premiere of her previous film The Realm of God at the Berlinale and Love & Mathematics at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Patricia Ortega is the founder of Mandrágora Films and graduated in social communication from the International School of Film and Television of San Antonio de los Baños EICTV (Cuba) in the specialty of direction (2003-2005). She also graduated from the Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg (Germany) in the specialty of documentary direction (2006). She directed her first fiction feature film in 2018, entitled Yo, Imposible. Prior to that she directed the feature documentary El regreso (2013) and short Pasajes as well as the fictional short  Al otro lado del mar (2006).

Some additional film highlights include:

  • 15 Ways to Kill Your Neighbor/Flor pequeña (Argentina/France; Director: Santiago Mitre): Leading the first wave and fresh off a Golden Globe win for Argentina, 1985 (Best Foreign Language Film) is Argentinian director Santiago Mitre’s deliciously twisted dark comedy about a man who refuses to die. José (Daniel Hendler) has moved to France with his partner and daughter. Unemployed, José refuses to learn French. One day, this stay-at-home dad knocks on his neighbor’s door to borrow a shovel; he is welcomed in by Jean-Claude (Melvil Poupaud), a bon-vivant. Jean-Claude rubs him the wrong way and José impulsively kills him with the shovel. Much to his chagrin, he discovers his new neighbor alive and well the following morning. Now he must kill him again…and again…and…
  • Blanquita (Chile/Mexico/Luxembourg/France/Poland; Director: Fernando Guzzoni): Inspired by real events, Chile’s official selection for the Academy Award for Best International Feature centers on Blanquita, an 18-year-old single mother who, encouraged by Manuel (Alejandro Goic), the priest who manages the foster home she lives in, becomes a key witness in the case against a child prostitution and pedophilia network run by a well-known businessman. Even though her accusation is corroborated, powerful interests begin to poke holes in their story. But Blanquita won’t back down.
  • I Have Electric Dreams/Tengo sueños eléctricos (Costa Rica/Belgium/France; Director: Valentina Maurel): This festival darling has taken home quite a few awards. Winner of the Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor Award at the Locarno International Film Festival and the Horizon Awards at San Sebastian, Valentina Maurel’s feature debut focuses on Eva, a strong-willed and restless 16-year-old girl who lives with her mother, her younger sister and their cat, who desperately wants to move in with her estranged father. Clinging onto him as he goes through a second adolescence, she balances between the tenderness and sensitivity of teenage life and the ruthlessness of the adult world.
  • Daughter of Rage/La hija de todas las rabias (Nicaragua/Mexico/Netherlands/Germany/France/Norway/Spain; Director: Laura Baumeister)Set against the backdrop of protests criticizing the government’s decision to privatize the waste services, Baumeister’s powerful feature debut tells the story of a mother and a daughter who live near Nicaragua’s largest landfill. Lilibeth and her 11-year-old daughter María make a living by recycling scrap metal and breeding their dog to sell the puppies. After running afoul of a local thug, Lilibeth leaves María with the owners of a recycling center where she must stay and work. There she meets Tadeo, who will help her reunite with Lilibeth.
  •  Eami (Paraguay/Argentina/Mexico/Germany/France/Netherlands/United States; Director: Paz Encina): Winner of the Tiger Award at the 2022 Rotterdam International Film Festival and Paraguay’s official selection for the Academy Award for Best International Feature, Paz Encina’s sensorial documentary hybrid reveals the impact of deforestation over Paraguay’s Ayoreo Totobiegosode native people through their own mythology. The Asojá, the bird-god-woman, takes the form of 5-year-old Eami, who is in   a trance after her village is destroyed. Her memories are the only way to keep her people alive.
  • The Fishbowl/La pecera (Puerto Rico/Spain; Director: Glorimar Marrero Sánchez): One of the few Puerto Rican films to premiere at Sundance, interdisciplinary artist Marrero Sánchez’s feature debut follows ailing artist Noelia who, after learning that her cancer has metastasized, leaves her partner behind in San Juan and moves in with her mother on the island municipality of Vieques. She keeps secret her condition so she can live life on her own terms, including joining in the efforts to document the toxic legacy of the U.S. military exercises in the island.
  • Amigo (USA; Director: Luis Gispert): Set in the Spanish-speaking black enclaves of Miami, New York / Miami based visual artist Luis Gispert’s feature debut follows Tomás, an immigrant laborer with a murky past who fled his country by shipping himself in a crate to the US. Tomás is living off the grid, performing odd-jobs for an upper-middle class family, saving money in the hopes of eventually buying a home for his estranged family that he left behind. A series of events forces Tomás out of his solitary life to engage with people in his community in search of something lost.

Pepe Vargas says, “our next Festival needs to be even better than the last one’ has been our mantra for 39 years and that wouldn’t be possible without a great roster of films. And this year’s films are extraordinary. They represent a fraction of the incredible work that is coming out of Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean. We are happy to bring back the full Festival theatrical experience to Chicago moviegoers and to welcome all these amazing film artists to our great city.”

The CLFF is a non-competitive festival, however, since 1993, the public has had the opportunity to vote for their favorite film in several categories and award them with the Audience Choice Award. The winner will be announced on Thursday, April 27th.

The International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago is a pan-Latino, nonprofit, multidisciplinary arts organization dedicated to developing, promoting, and increasing awareness of Latino cultures among Latinos and other communities by presenting a wide variety of art forms and education including film, music, dance, visual arts, comedy, theater and culinary arts. The Center prides itself for its outstanding multidisciplinary local and international cultural programming which spans Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. Born out of the Chicago Latino Film Festival, The International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago also produces other programs, including the Chicago Latino Music Series, which is celebrating its 17th edition this year; Film in the Parks, also in its 17th season; the monthly Reel Film Club, already in its 15th year; and many others. All in all, the audience has grown from 500 people in 1985 for the first Chicago Latino Film Festival to more than 70,000 (Latinos and non-Latinos) who enjoy the year-round multidisciplinary cross-cultural exchanges offered by the Center.

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets to each regular screening at the Landmark Century Center are: $15, general admission; $12 (with valid ID), ILCC members, students and seniors. Festival passes worth 10 admissions for the in-person screenings are: $125 for the general public and $105 for ILCC Members, students and seniors.

Monday and Tuesday night specials at the Landmark Century Center: all films, $12.

Tickets to the Opening and Closing Night galas are $75 general / $65 for ILCC members. Admission includes the film screening and party. Cocktail attire is strongly encouraged.

Tickets for the special screening of Facing the Silence at the Instituto Cervantes on Wednesday, April 19 are $30 general / $25 for ILCC members.

Tickets can be purchased at chicagolatinofilmfestival.org.

Visit latinoculturalcenter.org for more information.

 

 

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