The 23rd Chicago Latino Film Festival
by Rick Villalobos
Running April 13 - 25, 2007
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Cara de queso—Mi primer gueto (Cheese Head)
Cara de queso is a film about a Jewish boy named Ariel and his group of oddball friends trapped for the summer in a country club called, “El ciervo.” Ariel, also known as cheese head, attempts to survive in a bizarre world molded by strict Jewish standards. Director Winograd’s autobiographical film is a comical exploration of a world shaped by the perspective of a Jewish adolescent. It is this perspective that celebrates the differences and similarities in all people.
Ariel sees his best friend, Coper, on the bathroom floor as the country club bully, Alma, urinates on him. This opening scene begins the narration of a boyhood tale that quickly becomes a follow-up to the American Pie film series. There is an amusing, but perverse charm about a gang of adolescents crossing the threshold to manhood. There attempts are shabby and shrewd like this film. Although, the characters are appealing, the story line is worn-out. A failed sexual scheme ending in total embarrassment…hmmm, there is nothing unique about that.
Gold stars should be given out to the following: the wise and senile grandfather, Mollo, whose advice—to have sex and masturbate endlessly—is remembered, the mother-in-law loathing house wife, Lili, who will do anything to get away from her meddling in-law, and the geek with a heart on his sleeve, Felman. Great characters make great films or they keep mediocre films from sinking.
Remember the opening scene? Well, this scene becomes a part of the plot—it tries to bring the film together, but innocently fails. A country club resident hears Coper’s cry and investigates. Alma is startled as he hears the old man’s footsteps draw closer and escapes. The resident, seeing what had just happened, files a complaint against the bully. This incident turns into a debate that hastily turns into a trial.
Cara de queso survives its attempt in becoming a decent film. It has its memorable moments…wait, what are they again? What makes this film decent is its comedic integrity, which is consistent all through out the film. It’s a comedy—enough said.
Ten Short Films at a Glance
Finales Felices (Happy Endings) Australia / Venezuela
A hit woman named, Spider, teaches the value of life and love to a man that becomes her next target.
Encuentro Ausente (Absent Encounter) Mexico
Laura, 40, remembers the college romance that haunts her twenty years later.
A student, Fatima, rejects a teachers request to remove her Islamic veil.
El cumpleanos (The Birthday) Spain
A birthday gift causes a search in a particular place.
El silencio de los sapos (The Toad’s Silence) Venezuela
Three children cope with the death of their mother through an array of dreams and thoughts.
El ultimo golpe del caballero (The Knights Last Blow) Columbia
A knight rescues a princess trapped in a castle—guarded by globins.
100 anos de perdon (100 Years of Forgiveness) Mexico
Dona Lupe feels neglected and takes action in hopes to receive her husband’s attention.
Cavernicola and Movimiento—Chile
An experimental video that questions the existence of a footprint that vanishes and suddenly reappears.
El intruso (The Intruder) Spain
An outsider observes a film’s last scene.
Estamos por todos lados—Mexico
Mexico City.—Two young men are robbed and suffer a psychological attack.
Opening Night: The Chicago Historical Museum
Another year to watch and another night to celebrate tonight the 23rd Chicago Latino Film Festival unlocked its doors and laid out a signature red carpet. Opening night represents for many a continuous effort to bring Latino cinema to the city of Chicago. In cooperation with Columbia College Chicago the International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC) will attempt to screen over one hundred films within a two week time frame. With its growing success and distinguished list of sponsors the Chicago Latino Film Festival has shown persistence and passion since its commencement 23 years ago.
Opening Night began with a rousing applause. Black suits and long dark fabrics placed elegantly against the dark red theatre seats complimented the feature film, Las paginas del diario de Mauricio / Mauricio’s Diary. Although the Cuban director Manuel Perez was absent he was represented fairly by his son who read a letter from the award winning director. Nevertheless, the empty seat was filled by the film maker’s request—our relentless support of the arts. It is this endeavor that has called on the contributions of companies and organizations like: Coca Cola, the Illinois Arts Council, Starbucks Coffee and American Airlines.
Tonight’s screening is Mauricio’s Diary a film co-produced by Cuba and Mexico that begins during the Olympic games in Sydney. The Cuban and Russian female teams meet in a partisanship match of volleyball. As cheers reign from a television set Rolando Brito the main character places himself in the middle of a political debate of spikes and dives. Brito, a sixty year old college professor conveys his life through a recollection of thoughts that peer into the hardships of romance and lose. Mauricio’s Diary is one mans insight of a life that is at times confusing, but understandable. It is this life that seems familiar as each dramatic turn becomes more memorable.
The Chicago Latino Film Festival began with a small audience of hundreds. Now thousands, the festival has yet to loose its stride and has become the largest in the country. Opening night did what it promised 23 years ago, the endless promotion of Latino picture making in a city that values the differences in all cultures.
This two-week-long film festival will take place at three different venues: Piper’s Alley 4, Facets Cinematheque and Landmark Century Centre Cinema.
SEEN AT THE FESTIVAL: La Libreria/The Book Shop
Actor Miguel Flores is Pedro - a shy schoolboy stuck in a thirty-year-old man’s body. This film from Venezuela explores the insecurities of a man that wishes to be loved by an attractive bookshop attendant named Valeria. It is his obsession for this stranger that captivates him. As he enters the bookshop, the shy Pedro glances over to her and is immediately overwhelmed. His only escape is to hide behind a bookcase and peer at her again and again. Valeria innocently notices the gawking customer and succumbs to his expectations. After wittingly maneuvering himself through a labyrinth of books, Pedro finds himself standing in front of his obsession, the beautiful bookshop keeper. La Libreria is a film that remembers the innocence of what it is like to be in love from a distance. It also confronts the misinterpretation and sometimes creepy design of a deep infatuation that is only understandable to one person, the crazed. Director Hernán Jabes creates a quirky 15-minute scene that slowly develops into a memorable ending that is worth waiting for.
Since 1985 the city of Chicago and the ILCC have promoted more than 900 films and videos from Latin America, the United States, Spain and Portugal. This year the largest U.S film festival will screen over 100 pictures celebrating Latino filmmakers from all genres: animation, short film, narrative, documentary and full feature films.
Through its support of Latino cinema the International Latino Cultural Center has confronted the stereotypes and mainstream ideals of the Latino culture. It is by this aim that past films like12 Horas (12 Hours), Amar Te Duele (Loving Hurts You) and El Crimen Del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) Oscar nominated for best foreign language film in 2003 have premiered respectively.
Films this year include: Como Mariposas en la Luz (As Butterflies in the Light/ Argentina, Spain), Soñar No Cuesta Nada (Dreaming Does Not Cost Anything/ Columbia), La Niña de la Piedra (The Girl of the Stone/ Mexico) and El Clown (The Clown/ Puerto Rico). Visit www.latinoculturalcenter.org for a complete listing of films and events.
Ten Prominent Films at This Year’s
Film reviewers adore lists. We are known for them and hated because of them. Nevertheless, we believe in its autonomy and its power to unite people. We are the heroes of the industry—the nut case chasing a high level tornado and getting it all on tape. Why do it? It is our duty and we have nothing better to do. So, here is a list about ten of the most prominent films that will be featured at this year Chicago Latino Film Festival.
2. El Benny—Cuba, Venezuela, Spain
3. Las páginas del diario de Mauricio (Mauricio’s Diary) Cuba, Mexico
4. Más que a nada en el mundo (More than Anything in the World) Mexico
5. Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth) Portugal
6. Super Amigos (Super Friends) Mexico, Canada
8. Bienvenido a casa (Welcome home) Spain
9. El Clown (The Clown) Puerto Rico
10. El Colombian Dream—Colombia
Rick Villalobos is a freelance writer and film reviewer in Chicago, IL.
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