The Chicago Latino Film Festival is the chance for those in the Windy City to catch some of the best movies coming out of Latin America. Gathering films that have played festivals like Sundance, Rotterdam, and Venice as well some from first-time directors hoping to get their projects seen by a welcoming crowd, CLFF is back for its 33rd edition. This year the fest opens with the marital drama One Night of Love starring two of Argentina’s top TV stars, and closes with the Chicago premiere of Elia Schneider’s award-winning biopic Tamara about the first trans person elected to Venezuela’s National Assembly. In between, audiences will be greeted by 70 feature films and 40 shorts from which to choose from.

In addition to its varied roster of films, CLFF is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pedro Infante, a legend of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. A special concert program titled “Pedro, Mi Amor” at the National Museum of Mexican Arts on April 26 and 27, some of Infante’s most beloved songs will be performed by flutist Elena Duran and pianist Santiago Piñeirua with clips from his iconic movies.

From Cuban rom-coms and Peruvian musicals to Venezuelan docudramas and Mexican period films, there’s plenty to catch at this year’s CLFF. Check out our top picks below.

The Chicago Latino Film Festival runs April 20 – May 4, 2017.

1

El techo

Country Nicaragua, Cuba
Production Year 2016
On the roof 03 el techo
'El techo' still courtesy of Miami Film Festival
Synopsis

A pizzeria may seem a modest venture, but for the three enterprising habaneros at the center of Cuban filmmaker Patricia Ramos’ winsome feature debut, success in the pizza business holds the promise of prosperity, purpose and, just maybe, love and happiness. A deliciously off-beat romantic comedy, On the Roof offers an impeccable balance of colloquial charm and universal appeal. Ramos and her excellent cast have crafted highly relatable characters with varying degrees of ambition, ingenuity and quirk. Some current Cuban films seek to correct sweeping social ailments; by contrast, Ramos and her collaborators understand that sometimes the world is changed one dream at a time


Film Details
On the Roof
Director Patricia Ramos
Country Nicaragua Cuba
Genre Romantic Comedy
Writer Patricia Ramos
Producer Humberto Jiménez Penha
Production Year 2016
2

El amparo

Production Year 2016
Synopsis

According to official reports, an armed scuffle between the Venezuelan military and guerrilla fighters on the border between Colombia and its western neighbor left 14 men dead. Seeing as The amparo is set in the 1980s, the story is shocking to those watching news reports but something seems off. For starters, two of the men who survived the crossfire and who are quickly taken to a jail in their hometown, claim they had all been fishing in the Arauca river and have nothing to do with Colombia’s armed conflict. As tensions begin, the two men will have to choose whether to fight for what they know is true and risk staying in jail or corroborate the official story, sully their friends’ names but walk away free. Based on true events and beautifully capturing the beauty of the Colombian/Venezuelan border, Calzadilla’s moral thriller illuminates the complexity of finding truth in a time of conflict.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Rober Calzadilla
Country Venezuela Colombia
Genre Drama
Writer Karin Valecillos
Producer Rober Calzadilla Giovanni García Karin Valecillos Rubén Sierra Salles
Production Year 2016
Running Time 99 minutes
3

Tamara

Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Elia Schneider’s Tamara recounts the real life story of Tamara Adrian, Venezuela’s first transgender person elected to that country’s National Assembly. The film takes the biopic route and lets us witness Tamara’s former life as Tomas, an unhappily married middle-class man with two kids, all the way up to when she finally presents herself as a woman to the world. It’s not an easy transition, sadly. She’s heckled at the school where she teaches, shamed by police officers who relish stripping her of her clothes, and even scolded by her own wife. But she doesn’t waver, knowing that she’s living her truth. Starring Luis Fernandez as Tamara, this groundbreaking project is a powerful document of the transphobia that trans women and men deal with every day.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Elia K. Schneider
Country Venezuela Uruguay Peru
Genre Biopic Drama
Writer Fernando Butazzoni Elia K. Schneider
Producer Joseph Novoa
Production Year 2016
Running Time 110 minutes
4

Esteban

Country Cuba, Spain
Production Year 2016
Esteban 04
'Esteban' Courtesy of HFFNY
Synopsis

Esteban, who lives with his mother in Havana, dreams of only one thing: becoming a pianist. The imposing instrument calls out to him even though he cannot even afford a single piano class. But through sheer determination, this young wide-eyed boy will fight to achieve this dream. Looking to show what director Jonal Cosculluela Sanchez calls the harsh side of the current situation in Cuba, this uplifting drama features music by Grammy Award-winning musician Chucho Valdés.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Jonal Cosculluela Sanchez
Country Cuba Spain
Genre Drama
Writer Amilcar Salatti
Production Year 2016
Running Time 90 minutes
5

La Habitación

Country Poland, Mexico
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Can a room tell the history of a country? That’s the premise behind this anthology film. Directed by 8 different filmmakers, including Natalia Beristáin, Carlos Carrera and Alfonso Pineda Ulloa, Tales of Mexico offers vignettes set in key moments of the country’s 20th Century history—the Ten Tragic Days of the Mexican Revolution, the anti-Chinese campaign, the Tlatelolco Massacre, and the 1985 Earthquake. Together they weave together a painfully personal tapestry of the impact national events have on the everyday lives of its population.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
6

Locos de amor

Country Peru
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Locos de amor is not a film you see every day. It is a homegrown jukebox musical centered on a group of middle-aged women. Featuring songs straight out of your mother’s CD collection (including those by Pimpinela, Perales, Montaner, and Mocedades among others) this Peruvian flick is an anthology of sorts, following a number of women dealing with heartbreak, betrayal, and the growing pains of maturity. More Mamma Mia! than La La Land, Frank Pérez-Garland’s joyous musical numbers (staged in outdoor parks, inside shopping malls, and in parking garages) lift up this celebration of female friendship that nevertheless hints at the melancholy that we all face when experiencing the passing of time.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Frank Pérez-Garland
Country Peru
Genre Music Comedy
Writer Bruno Ascenzo Mariana Silva
Producer Miguel Valladares
Production Year 2016
Running Time 93 minutes
7

UIO: Sácame a pasear

Director Micaela Rueda
Country Ecuador
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Starting her senior year of high school, Sara is ready for adventure—especially as a way to break away from her overbearing mother. Enter: Andrea, her new schoolmate with whom she starts an intimate relationship that’ll force her to come to terms with herself. Boasting a pop-friendly soundtrack and a sun-dappled look at young love, Rueda’s film promises to be a lovely entry to the LGBT canon.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
UIO: Take Me For A Ride
Director Micaela Rueda
Country Ecuador
Genre Drama
Writer Juan José Vallejo
Producer Micaela Rueda Patty Maldonado
Production Year 2016
Running Time 70 minutes
8

Mi Amiga del Parque

Director Ana Katz
Production Year 2015
Synopsis

Dubbed a “worrying comedy” (“una comedia preocupante”), Katz’s film centers on the budding friendship between Liz and Rosa, two women who bond over their newborn babies. But what begins like a lighthearted take on motherhood and female friendship soon takes a turn towards noir territory. Playing the fiery Rosa, Katz taps into the unraveling that greets new mothers while weaving an increasingly dangerous tale of betrayal and suspicion that threatens to rupture the quaint if fragile life Liz (Julieta Zylberberg) had built for herself while she cared for Nicanor while her husband is away shooting a documentary.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Ana Katz
Country Uruguay Argentina
Genre Comedy
Producer Ana Katz Agustina Chiarino Nicolás Avruj Diego Lerman Fernando Epstein Ignacio Rey Gastón Rothschild
Production Year 2015
Running Time 85 minutes
9

Tamara y la catarina

Country Spain, Mexico
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Tamara lives an isolated life. Amidst the bustling world of Mexico City, her mental and physical limitations keep her cocooned in her house where she takes care of lizards and ladybugs. And so, when she finds an abandoned baby one day and takes it home with her, it disrupts her very own existence. With the help of Doña Meche, her upstairs neighbor (another recluse), Tamara sets out to find out how to find the baby’s parents, embarking on an adventure that will force her out of her comfort zone while putting into relief the loneliness that’s become a comforting part of her routine.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Tamara and the Ladybug
Director Lucía Carreras
Country Spain Mexico
Genre Drama
Writer Lucía Carreras
Producer Ana V. Bojorquez Sandra Paredes
Production Year 2016
Running Time 107 minutes
10

La soledad

Country Venezuela
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Imagined as a poetic metaphor for Venezuela’s current socio-political crisis, director Jorge Thielen Armand set La soledad in his grandparents’ old home which was then inhabited by their lifelong maid and grandson (who play themselves in the film). As young José learns that the nature-riddled and near-dilapidated house will be demolished, he sets out to find the treasure legend tells has been buried in the estate. He sees it as his last chance at providing for his grandmother and getting them out of their squatting situation. But he’ll soon find this get rich quick scheme may not be the best way out of the poverty he’s come to know. Mixing fiction with documentary flair, La soledad is a timely indictment of the inequality that’s run rampant in Venezuela.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Solitude
Director Jorge Thielen Armand
Country Venezuela
Genre Docudrama
Writer Rodrigo Michelangeli Jorge Thielen Armand
Producer Manon Ardisson
Production Year 2016
Running Time 89 minutes
11

Una noche de amor

Country Argentina
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

After 12 years of marriage, Leonel and Paola (Argentina TV stars Sebastian Wainraich and Carla Peterson) are having a hard time rekindling that spark that first brought them together. During one disastrous date night out—with their two young kids safe at home—the couple is forced to face the facts. In between an insufferable dinner at a fancy restaurant (which they hate), a run-in with old friends (that irritates them both), and a walk around the neighborhood, this bittersweet romantic comedy is about how hard it is to keep up the happily ever after.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
12

The Way to Andina

Director Arlen Parsa
Production Year 2017
Synopsis

Fresh-faced indie filmmaker Arlen Parsa wants to pull of the near-impossible. He wants to stage his Colombian great-grandfather Eustasio Rosales’s long lost opera “Andina.” Found among his family’s treasured troves, Arlen wants nothing more than to give life to that which Eustasio never lived to see. He doesn’t even know whether it’s any good or if it’ll be worth the trouble, but goddarn it, he’s gonna give it a try—and film the entire process! There’s only one catch: Arlen knows nothing about opera, nor does he speak any Spanish. That’s not gonna stop him. “This is musical theater, not rocket science!” he tells the camera. The Way to Andina is just as buoyant and eager as its young Chicago director. Chronicling this ambitious tribute, this documentary may be the most touching gift a young great-grandson could come up with.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Arlen Parsa
Country United States
Genre Documentary
Writer Arlen Parsa
Producer Arlen Parsa
Production Year 2017
Running Time 70 minutes