The 34th Chicago Latino Film Festival
by Alicja Ramotowski
As many Northsiders know, extra credit is one of the best motivators for students to get up and do something. For years now, spanish classes have been offering bonus points for attending Chicago’s Latino Film Festival, which is an annual screening of Latin American films at AMC River East 21. Every year, enthusiasts flood to the theatre to experience a unique and rare movie experience, and occasionally get the opportunity to speak with the director of the film they watch. This year’s film festival, which has been taking place every year since 1985, went from April 5 to April 19.
The Latino Film Festival covers a variety of types of movies and themes, including drama, horror, comedy, romance, documentary, and more. The films come from all sorts of Latin countries such as Spain, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, or Argentina. This year, over 100 feature-length and short films--one short film is screened before each feature-length film--participated in the festival. All films are in Spanish or Portuguese, but have English subtitles, allowing for a variety of audience members.
Films at the festival are often produced on a much lower budget than most movies made in the US, but still just as good. The short film “Blinking Lights,” lasted just eight minutes, but created an eerie, thought provoking mood that stayed with me past the duration of the movie. The whole feature takes place on one strip of a beach, with just two actors conversing about the stars. In the end, it turns out they are on a different planet, observing Earth as a star and realizing that each day, it shines less than the day before. This short clip is confusing at first, but in the last moments, the main idea (that we have to care more for our Earth which is being destroyer) becomes clear, and I was impressed by the creative way in which the director chose to express this idea.
The full-feature film that accompanied “Blinking Lights” was called “The Dragon Defense.” The movie covered the lives of three older men: a chess master, a watch store owner, and a doctor. All of the characters are going through a tough point in their lives, as they are stuck and do not know where to turn. They spend lots of time at a chess club talking about problems, but at the same time, escaping from them. Eventually, small changes in their lives add up, and it seems things are finally looking up for the trio.
AMC River East 21 is home to other manifestations of films such as the International Film Festival, Arthouse Film Festival, Asian Pop-Up Cinema, Romanian Film Festival, and the Sunscreen Film Festival. In a city as rich in culture and diverse as Chicago, the opportunities are endless, and when you have some time, there is a lot worth exploring. The world of films extends far further than it seems, and there is truly a lot to learn about different cultures and perspectives.
With a wide array of themes and topics, Chicago’s Latino Film Festival is a unique spectacle that students had the privilege to attend. One can learn about life in Latin American countries and experience a world that the brilliant Latino producers create for an hour or two. So next year, when the film festival comes to Chicago, be sure to buy a ticket for a one of a kind experience.