by Natalie Wilczek
Over this past month, Chicago welcomed back the 33rd Annual Latino Film Festival. From April 20 to May 4, the festival showcased over 70 different Latino movies throughout Chicago, as well as movies in Portuguese and Italian. Founder and Executive Director of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, Pepe Vargas, holds the annual festival to build bridges to different Latino cultures. The different movies presented throughout these two weeks opened many people’s eyes and minds towards new ideas and stories produced by the Latino diaspora. People from all over the city, regardless of race, came to watch the movies from various Latin countries. The International Latino Cultural Center was started because of this remarkable Chicago Latino Film Festival Chicago hosts every year. The Cultural Center hosts the Latino Music Festival, Film in the Park, and the monthly Reel Film Club series.
With a variety of movies from comedies to relationship dramas to family movies, the festival provided something for everybody, making the audience laugh and cry. This year, the movie, “One Night of Love” was the premier movie of the festival. It was an Argentinian relationship drama, starring Sebastian Wainraich and Carla Peterson. The festival made sure to end with an award-winning drama, “Tamara.” Elia Schneider is the director of “Tamara” which is about Venezuela’s first transgender person elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly.
Some of the films presented have won major awards at prestigious festivals such as Sundance. Most impressively, the people who organized the Latino Film Festival made it a goal for one-third of the films presented to be directed by first-time filmmakers. However, the Festival did not only include movies— musicals and classic plays were featured as well.
There were also many celebrations during these two weeks, including the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pedro Infante. Infante is known as a legend of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. There was a remarkable concert held at the National Museum of Mexican Arts for Infante on April 26 and 27. The Festival has made sure people are aware of the impact Infante made in the film industry with showing people performing Infante’s best loved songs from his foremost movies.
To give the viewers the best experience possible, directors of some of the films that were played in the movie theaters joined the viewers in watching the film. After the film was done, the directors would stay and talk to the audience about the creation of the film. The directors were willing to answer any questions or concerns the viewers had. The Latino Film Festival made sure that film enthusiasts were a part of the full experience. Everyone was able to vote for their favorite film and be a part of choosing who receives the publicly recognized award.
Chicago encourages this festival to come back every year because it is a celebration of culture through art. The films shown throughout these two weeks use smaller stories to paint a larger picture about the diversity within the Latino community. This is a great opportunity for film enthusiasts to get to know those that are a part of the Latino culture and how they really express themselves. Be sure to make the 34th Chicago Latino Film Festival next year in spring 2018!