The 32nd edition of the Chicago Latino Film Festival opens Friday, April 8, with Roberto Girault's Mexican comedy Illusions S.A., and closes Thursday, April 21, with Ariel Winograd's romantic comedy No Kids. In between you can catch more than a hundred new shorts and features making their Chicago debuts. Unless otherwise noted, all screenings are $13 and take place at River East 21, 322 N. Illinois. For more information and a complete schedule visit chicagolatinofilmfestival.org.
From Afar A withdrawn middle-aged man (Alfredo Castro) picks up a young street thug (Luis Silva) for a voyeuristic sexual encounter, and the two end up in a complicated, doomed relationship. This debut feature by Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas—the first Latin American film to win the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival—is a quietly menacing look at two men who need to be wanted but are divided by age and class. Castro brings to his role the same contained anger and arrogance he used so effectively in Pablo Larraín's The Club (2015); Silva, in his first role, doesn't quite reach his character's core, but his impulsiveness offers a fine counterbalance to Castro's caginess. In Spanish with subtitles. —Marilyn Ferdinand 93 min. Wed 4/13, 9 PM and Fri 4/15, 8:45 PM.
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez This Spanish documentary about the foremost practitioner of Latin American magic realism is remarkably compact given García Márquez's prodigious literary output and the revolutionary decades he witnessed. Much is made of the author's idyllic early childhood on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where his doting grandparents regaled him with stories. As a university student in Bogotá he began a career in advocacy journalism, which later took him to Venezuela, Europe, Mexico, and Cuba; after overcoming writer's block with his epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude he pursued writing books full-time but continued to crusade for social justice while cultivating friendships with Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton. Director Justin Webster (I Will Be Murdered) covers all the milestones, but to feel the passions that inspired García Márquez, you'll have to read his books. In Spanish with subtitles. —Andrea Gronvall 90 min. Fri 4/15, 9 PM, and Sun 4/17, 6:15 PM.
In the Game This Kartemquin Films documentary looks at a public high school on Chicago's southwest side for a few years before and after Rahm Emanuel's sweeping budget cuts to the city's school system. Director Maria Finitzo focuses on the girls' soccer team—specifically a few star players and the benevolent, paternal coach—but this doesn't feel like a sports movie so much as a lament for America's beleaguered working class. The coach teaches the girls valuable lessons about hard work and self-discipline, and the players Finitzo follows grow as individuals, but once they graduate, they find it nearly impossible to stay above the poverty line, let alone pay for college. This inspires warm admiration for the subjects while stirring up rousing anger at our city's social inequality—Kartemquin at its best. —Ben Sachs 77 min. Tue 4/12, noon, University of Chicago-Illinois Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, 803 S. Morgan; also Fri 4/15, 10:30 AM, North Park University, 3225 W. Foster; also Tue 4/19, 6 PM, River East 21.
Invasion Documentary maker Abner Benaim interviews residents of Panama City about the U.S. invasion that deposed General Manuel Noriega in December 1989. "Everyone has a truth," Benaim explains. "Even if that truth is a lie, I accept it anyway." To this end, he illustrates the testimony of some witnesses by having them reenact what they did in those chaotic days, whether they're shooting at U.S. paratroopers stuck in a mud flat, hauling a looted refrigerator down the street, or smoking crack in an ornate chair taken from Noriega's palace; he even recruits bystanders to play corpses in the street. Like Claude Lanzmann (Shoah) and Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing), Benaim forgoes any archival footage, capturing instead the texture of memory. In Spanish with subtitles. —Bill Stamets 90 min. Sat 4/9, 7:45 PM, and Mon 4/11, 8:15 PM.
Karadima's Forest An impressionable young man from a broken home (Pedro Campos) thinks he's found a calling when an influential priest (Luis Gnecco) takes him under his wing, but the priest coerces him into a long-term sexual relationship. Based on the true story of Fernando Karadima, leader of Chile's powerful El Bosque ("The Forest") church for more than 20 years, this drama is structured around the testimony of one of his victims, and its meticulous narrative, presented in scenes of Benjamín Vicuña as the grown man and in lengthy flashbacks, shows how a sexual predator grooms his victims. Gnecco's performance as Karadima, a callous narcissist whom many of the Chilean faithful call "the little saint," made my skin crawl. Matias Lira directed. In Spanish with subtitles. —Marilyn Ferdinand 98 min. Sat 4/16, 8 PM, and Mon 4/18, 6 PM.
Land and Shade There are bleak films, and then there are absolutely desolate ones like this 2015 Colombian drama by César Acevedo. An old sugarcane farmer (José Felipe Cárdenas), summoned to care for his bedridden son, returns to his old homestead and the family he abandoned decades earlier; meanwhile, out in the fields, his estranged wife and daughter-in-law and their fellow laborers tangle with the exploitative company that (sometimes) pays them. Many whispered conversations in dark rooms and long takes of manual labor ensue. The film is beautifully composed and full of striking images, but Acevedo's ruthless depiction of hardship makes this hard to watch. In Spanish with subtitles. —Adam Morgan 97 min. Sat 4/16, 8:15 PM, and Wed 4/20, 8:15 PM.
Murder in Pacot A wealthy neighborhood in Port-au-Prince is nearly destroyed by the Haitian earthquake of 2010 in this smart, unconventional drama (2015) by Raoul Peck (Lumumba). After the quake, an affluent couple wait for word of their missing son; needing to pay for repairs to their ruined three-story home, they move into the servants' quarters and sublease the rest of the house to an aid worker, who then becomes embroiled in local class warfare. The father, played by French actor Alex Descas, anchors the story with a cool, understated performance, and though the pace is leisurely, Peck jams so much detail into every frame and so much subtext into every conversation that even the slowest scenes are captivating. —Adam Morgan 130 min. Sun 4/10, 3:15 PM, and Mon 4/11, 6:15 PM.
The Similars Mexican writer-director Isaac Ezban traps eight characters in a backwater bus station five hours from Mexico City on a rainy night in October 1968. Dialogue refers to a protest in the capital the next day (the real-life event ended in a massacre), but Ezban's true inspiration is less political history than The Twilight Zone. Over the waiting-room radio come weird news reports from around the world, which the paranoid travelers blame on Satan, the Soviet Union, and hallucinogens secretly administered by the CIA. But the real cause is an eight-year-old boy reading a comic book about alien invaders who live inside raindrops. This SF spoof eventually turns silly, but not in an interesting way. In Spanish with subtitles. —Bill Stamets 89 min. Producer Elsa Reyes Garcés attends the screenings. Sat 4/9, 8:30 PM, and Mon 4/11, 8:45 PM.
Thirst Joe Houlberg, currently studying at the School of the Art Institute, will introduce this screening of his Ecuadoran mystery about a blind woman and her companions visiting an old country house. 75 min. Sun 4/10, 6 PM, and Wed 4/13, 6:45 PM. v