Chicago Latino Film Festival
In its 23rd year, the venerable Latino Film Fest offers a wide and tempting selection of features, documentaries and shorts from throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Of the films we were able to preview by press time, we are eager to recommend (or advise against seeing) the following:
Rodrigo Furth’s Through Your Eyes (2006, 104mins), a pitiless satire about an aging Argentine couple whose New York vacation turns into a medical nightmare and financial disaster, reminded us of the mordant and justly acclaimed The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.
Andrés León Becker and Javier Sola’s More than Anything in the World (2006, 90mins) is a spooky little heartbreaker about a seven-year-old Mexican girl who blames her single mom’s erratic and promiscuous behavior on the influence of an ailing neighbor she believes to be a vampire. Think Spirit of the Beehive transplanted to a residential high-rise.
Jorge Luis Sánchez’s El Benny (2006, 132mins) is a slick but passionate biopic based on the life of legendary Cuban bandleader Benny Moré. Worth seeing for the musical selections alone, the film also offers a racy look at the intersection between pop music and electoral politics just prior to the revolution.
We didn’t get a chance to see Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth (2006, 2hrs 35mins), but those we know who have are sharply divided as to whether the diffuse drama—about an old man who relocates from a raffish Lisbon slum to a sterile new housing project—is one of the best films of the new century or the celluloid equivalent of chloroform.
We were lukewarm at best for Manuel Huerga’s Salvador Puig Antich (2006, 135mins), a torpid and muddled historical melodrama about a celebrated Spanish anarchist who became the last political prisoner executed by the Franco regime.
Finally, we would advise taking a pass on Felipe Aljure’s El Colombian Dream (2005, 120mins) and Manuel Nieto Zas’s The Dog Pound (2006, 109mins). The former, about Colombian teens trying to peddle hallucinogenic pills while tripping on their own supply, contains some interesting, off-the-wall ideas, but its lo-fi psychedelic visual style is more apt to induce vertigo than a contact high. The latter, about a Uruguayan slacker trying to get a small house built with or without the help of his even less ambitious friends, will test all but the longest attention spans to their breaking point before it finally snaps into some semblance of focus in the final reel.— Cliff Doerksen
Screenings take place daily at Piper’s Alley 4, Facets Cinematheque and Landmark’s Century Centre from Friday 13 through April 25. General admission is $10, $9 for students, seniors and the handicapped. For comprehensive schedule and ticketing information, visit latinoculturalcenter.org/Filmfest.