Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the 26th Chicago Latino Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, April 23 through 29, at Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio; Landmark's Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark; 600 N. Michigan; and smaller venues throughout the city and suburbs. Tickets for most screenings are $10; $9 for students, seniors, and the disabled; and $8 for ILCC members. A festival pass, good for a dozen admissions, is $100, $80 for ILCC members. Following are selected films screening, in English and/or subtitled Spanish unless otherwise noted. For more information call 312-409-1757 or see latinoculturalcenter.org.
Blue Eyes This clunky, overwrought Brazilian drama (2009) stars versatile character actor David Rasche as an alcoholic U.S. customs officer in New York City who indulges his xenophobia by browbeating detained Latino travelers. After a hostile interview with a college professor turns tragic, the protagonist retires in disgrace and eventually heads to Recife to make amends with the man's family. This is supposed to be an allegory about the end of the American century, yet it plays like two different movies: the shrill and claustrophobic interrogation scenes rely on stereotypes to lampoon the war on terror, whereas the poignant road trip shows why so many Latinos still harbor dreams of the promised land to the north. In English and subtitled Portuguese and Spanish. 110 min. —Andrea Gronvall Wed 4/28, 6 PM, 600 N. Michigan. Screening as part of the festival's "Night of Brazil," which includes the festival awards ceremony and a cocktail reception; tickets are $50, $45 for ILCC members.
Chance In this 2009 Panamanian feature, two housemaids working for a family of insufferable muckety-mucks near the limits of their patience as their employers fall two months behind in paying their wages; when the family announces an extended shopping trip to Miami, the seething domestics take their employers hostage and confront them with a whole lot of dirty laundry. Writer-director Abner Benaim is out for laughs, not blood, but the anger underlying the humor is palpably sincere. The upper-class villains are painted a bit too broadly, but Rosa Isabel Lorenzo and Aida Morales are appealing and persuasive as the unlikely insurgents. I wouldn't be surprised if this spawned a timid American remake. 127 min. —Cliff Doerksen Mon 4/26, 7:30 PM, and Wed 4/28, 8:45 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
Cooking Up Dreams In Peru even the poorest folk are serious foodies—so says this 2009 video documentary, which exalts cooking as the glue that binds the ethnically diverse, politically fragmented nation. Director Ernesto Cabellos seemingly leaves no aspect of the national diet unexamined: he peers with equal ardor into peasants' stew pots and five-star Peruvian restaurants in Lima, New York, and Madrid; traces Peruvian traditions back to the ancient Incas; and follows local ingredients from ocean, farm, and forest as they make their way through open-air markets to the table. From a technical perspective this is no great shakes, but it's fun and appetizing, and it really made me want to go to Peru. 75 min. —Cliff Doerksen Sat 4/24, 7:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
A Fly in the Ashes This gripping Argentinean drama (2009) depicts the nightmarish predicament of two young rural women who are lured to Buenos Aires by job openings for domestics but instead find themselves enslaved as prostitutes. One of them refuses to cooperate, though her mentally challenged friend, unable to comprehend the grievous situation, accommodates their captors. Writer-producer-director Gabriela David (Taxi, an Encounter) deemphasizes the feminist angle inherent in the material, opting instead for a stark, straightforward drama, and cameraman Miguel Abal makes liberal use of close-ups to heighten the sense of claustrophobia in the bordello scenes. 98 min. —Joshua Katzman Mon 4/26, 5 PM, and Thu 4/29, 8:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre
The Last Script: Remembering Buñuel For this engrossing documentary portrait of Luis Buñuel, the filmmaker's frequent writing partner Jean-Claude Carriere and son Juan Luis Buñuel revisit the locales of Buñuel's films and private life, tracing his peripatetic career from Spain to France to the United States to Mexico and back again. As a narrative technique, this doesn't always illuminate Buñuel's films, which, despite their vivid settings, seemed to take place mostly in a landscape of the mind. But it does provide many revealing glimpses into the man, who bounced around the world searching not for commercial opportunity but for the artistic freedom that would allow him to pursue his own extravagant visions. Gaizka Urresti and Javier Espada directed. 144 min. —J.R. Jones Mon 4/26, 6 PM, and Wed 4/28, 8:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
The Passion of Gabriel A liberal priest in a rural Colombian village tries to follow his conscience by refusing to compromise with either the guerrillas or the soldiers vying for control of the hamlet, but gradually his unorthodox methods alienate many of the residents. Andres Parra is engagingly hammy as the willful priest, who's caught in a torrid affair with a local woman (Maria Cecilia Sanchez) pressuring him to settle down with her. Luis Alberto Restrepo's direction is dully pedestrian, and though his 2008 film paints an unflattering portrait of both the military and the renegades, its earnest preachiness impedes the drama and blunts its tragic conclusion. 86 min. —Joshua Katzman Sat 4/24, 4:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
Spiral In this 2009 Mexican drama, most of the men of a small Oaxacan village migrate north in search of work and abandon their wives and sweethearts, who gradually reshape the community into a self-sufficient, nontraditional culture (a teenage girl plays Jesus in the local church pageant). One day a couple of the men return after nearly two decades in the United States; in a twist reminiscent of Buñuel, they've changed as much as the women, but not for the better. Director Jorge Perez Solano uses a deceptively simple love story to show how, in the space of a single generation, power can shift absolutely, crushing those who can't adapt. 100 min. —Andrea Gronvall Tue 4/27, 6:15 PM, and Wed 4/28, 9 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
Teresa The lissome Francisca Lewin stars in this talky Chilean biopic (2009) about the short, turbulent life of Teresa Wilms Montt, a poet and anarchist of the early 20th century. This well-bred belle first signals her rejection of bourgeois norms by stripping to the waist at a genteel society function, and after she estranges her family by eloping at age 17, her hard-drinking husband catches her cheating and ships her off to a convent. A friend helps her bust out of the stifling nunnery, but her subsequent literary fame fails to compensate for the miseries of her messy personal life. Director Tatiana Gaviola serves up swoony sex, melodrama, and nicely dry-cleaned costumes. In Spanish with subtitles. 84 min. —Cliff Doerksen Sat 4/24, 7:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre
The Thing That Moves This video documentary by Ian Padron follows the legendary Cuban band Los Van Van on its 2006 national tour, during which founder, leader, and bassist Juan Formell passed the torch to his son, drummer Samuel. (Juan has continued to work with the band, though, and recently performed with it in Miami.) Band members past and present, musicologists, and noted composer Pablo Milanes discuss Los Van Van's enduring power over nearly four decades, their interviews punctuated by stunning vintage performance footage. Starting in 1969, Formell radically modernized Cuban charanga with electric instruments and funky grooves, and over the decades the band has managed to adapt to changing tastes. But as the video makes plain, Los Van Van has long since become an institution, which has made such reinvention all the harder. 73 min. —Peter Margasak Sun 4/25, 4 PM, and Tue 4/27, 6:15 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.