The Chicago Latino Film Festival celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year with more than 100 films, including some of the most memorable films of previous festivals. The event is produced by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago. The festival has chronicled the evolution of filmmaking and the growth of the industry in Latin America, growing to a loyal audience of 30,000 watching films at historical venues such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum and the Aragon Ballroom. This year, the festival features multiple queer-themed films, including the following:
Amor en Concreto (Spanish with English subtitles) Venezuela/ France/Germany, 2003. Amor en Concreto is a film chronicling six people who by-pass each other on the Avenida Libertador, a major boulevard in Buenos Aires. Though the movie takes place in Argentina, the character's stories hit close to home. I feel as though I could have bumped into two of them, Tony and Clemencia, on the corner of Belmont and Clark in Lakeview. Clemencia is a transvestive who meets Tony, an attractive teenager. Tony quickly falls in love with Clemencia, but she is reluctant to develop the relationship because she believes it is doomed. I found myself mesmerized by the interaction between Tony and Clemencia. Through their interaction, the film explores the different routes everyone takes in the struggle to find true love and acceptance. I recommend this film because it showcases the need everyone has to fit in and the struggle of being an outcast. It's a perfect reminder that everyone, from the transvestite on the corner to the wealthy socialites, needs validation and love.
Omar (Spanish with no subtitles) Mexico, 2003. This movie is, for lack of a better word, pointless. There is minimal dialogue as Omar, a shy gay guy, stalks a group of straight vacationers. Omar literally has no voice in this film, so the viewer simply develops pity for his character without understanding his motivations, needs, or desires. This movie promotes the idea that gay people are social outcasts who have nothing to do but envy their heterosexual counterparts. It should be avoided.
La Tregua (Spanish with English subtitles) Mexico, 2002. This film has more straight characters than gay and sadly disappoints. Jaime, the protagonist, struggles with coming out and finding acceptance from his father Martin. This movie plays more like an old after-school special than a film festival feature. The treatment of Jaime's character is brief and to the point. In the beginning of this film you know immediately that he's gay and struggling with coming out to his family. He does and his family accepts him with little turmoil. There is little meat to his struggle or depth to his character. There were times during the film when I anxiously waited for him to come back into the story line, but he never does. Instead the movie shifts focus to his father Martin, a lonely widower who beds a young lady multiple times. At the end I felt like I had been cheated and tricked into watching straight porn.
Alegre Ma Non Troppo 'Gay, but not in the extreme' (Spanish with English subtitles) Spain, 1993. This film is part of the festival's 'Most Memorable' films segment, which brings back some of the most highly regarded and popular films from previous years.
I highly recommend this film, which features Penelope Cruz in one of her most comedic performances, before she was linked to the other Cruise. Although this is the oldest of the four queer-themed films being shown, it is also the best. It portrays the life of aspiring musician Pedro, played by Pere Ponce, who finds himself questioning more than just his goals in life. As the film progressed, I found myself less focused on the plot and more interested in the character's development. Pedro is advised by a weird psychologist that he should try to be straight, although his family is very supportive. I never felt like the plot was about him being gay, but more about the search for a true identity. What this movie has that the other three lack is an environment that is up to date with modern times. Many films portray GLBT characters as a sad, usually dark component of the story. This movie shows a realistic perspective of a gay character addressing his sexuality. It is fresh, funny, and enjoyable to watch.
The Latino Film Festival is a great opportunity to see groundbreaking work from Latino producers, directors, and actors around the globe. Watching these films gave me a sense of appreciation for the strides the Latino community around the world is making in presentation of these issues. Though the queer films are only a small percentage of the films, they provide a Latin American reflection of our current political climate. If you are looking for a good Spanish queer movie Alegre Ma Non Troppo will not disappoint. Otherwise pick from the 100 films being screened including Eva Perón: The True Story, Nueba Yol, La niña de tus ojos and Guantanamera! Opening Night is Friday, April 16 at the Art Institute of Chicago. See www.latinoculturalcenter.org .
Emmanuel Garcia is a local artist and painter from Chicago who doesn't let his fear of lightning on a stormy April night stop him from writing or painting. www.emmanuelgarcia.blogspot.com
Chicago Latino Film Festival April 16-28
by Gregg Shapiro
As they have been doing over the past few years, the programmers and organizers of the annual Chicago Latino Film Festival at the International Latino Cultural Center have once again done a superb job of including films of interest to LGBT audience members. With a few such titles among the more than 100 films in the schedule, both queer and straight festival-goers have a decent selection of movies from which to choose.
At the beginning of Alegre Ma Non Troppo, an amusing Madrid-set comedy, gay musician Pablo (Pere Ponce) and his painter boyfriend have split up on the day of Pablo's orchestra audition. Even though Pablo's father Pablo (Oscar Ladoire) is an instructor and on the audition committee, Pablo is still uncertain that he will even be chosen. Pablo faints, is revived in the men's room by fellow horn player Vicente (Jordi Molla), whose girlfriend Salome (Penelope Cruz), is also a musician. Both Pablo and Salome eventually make it into the orchestra. Early in their friendship, Salome convinces Pablo to see a psychiatrist friend of hers who attempts to cure him of his homosexuality. Pablo's mother Asun (Rosa Maria Sarda) is disappointed that her son is disavowing his homosexuality, and does what she can to persuade him otherwise. Meanwhile, climber Salome has turned her attention to Pablo Sr. This entertaining comedy from 1994 provides a number of laugh out-loud moments.
An unusual cross-section of characters cross each other's paths over a period of a few days in Caracas, Venezuela, in director Francisco de Pena's video feature Amor En Concreto. Love-obsessed cab-driver Carlos (Carlos Miranda) finally works up the nerve to speak to nightclub singer Carmen (Gladys Prince), whom he has been stalking for 20 years. One of Carlos's passengers, transvestite prostitute Clemencia (Erich Wildpret), saves the life of runaway Tony (Alejandro Chaban), and later takes him to his first gay bar. Claudia (Beatriz Valdes), a doctor in a bad marriage, withdraws all the money from her joint bank account—then she is held up by unemployed Hector (Gregorio Milano). Somewhat less sturdy than concrete, the movie attempts to deliver a message about the power of love which never quite solidifies.
La Tregua is a big-screen, overly dramatic, Telenovela-quality flick that pours it on as heavily as syrup. Widower Martin (Gonzalo Vega) works in the office of a coastal shipping company, and is struggling with depression. His eldest son Esteban (Arath de la Torre) is a government employee; his middle child Jaime (Rodrigo Vidal) works in an architect's office; and his youngest child, daughter Blanca (Maite Embil) is a student. Martin has better luck in terms of romance and begins dating a young woman from his office named Laura (Adriana Fonseca). But his happiness is tenuous as things begin to unravel. Blanca's new boyfriend uses her virginity as a pawn in a bet, and Jaime is forced out of the closet by homophobic Esteban. Each of the family crises are resolved, but then (cue music), Martin is faced with an even greater tragedy when Laura suddenly takes ill.
Special festival programs include 'Haitian Series: Triumph of the Human Spirit,' 'Spanish Perspective,' 'Most Memorable Films,' 'Made in Chicago,' 'Soundbites on Celluloid,' 'Andalusian Cinema,' 'Animation Creation,' 'Student Segment,' and 'Women in Film.' Gala Events include the screening of Valentin at the Art Institute; 'A Night of Spain,' featuring a screening of Eres mi héroe (My Hero); the featured Mexican film Asesino en serio (A Serious Killer), during the Noche Mexicana program; and the closing night feature Sexo con amor (Sex with Love).
Festival screening take place in Chicago at the Biograph Theater, 3 Penny Cinema, Facets and a variety of centers and universities in the area. The complete film schedule will be available on the ILCC Web site (www.latinoculturalcenter.org); (312) 409-1757.