Chicago & Mexico City Directors Tackle Displacement on Both Sides of the Border in Online Film Program

Lead Photo: 'Las desaparecidas.' Courtesy of Full Spectrum Features.
'Las desaparecidas.' Courtesy of Full Spectrum Features.
Read more

Founded in 2013, Chicago-based Full Spectrum Features has been at the forefront in the production, exhibition and distribution of works created by women, LGBTQ and minority filmmakers; some of its projects include Ricardo Gamboa’s web series Brujos, Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move and last year’s biweekly film series Cuban Visions. For much of June and July, Full Spectrum Features will present, in partnership with Permanencia Voluntaria Archivo Cinematografía, Chicago Cinema Exchange: Mexico City, a series of free virtual events featuring the work of Chicago and Mexico City filmmakers which will include the screening of seven films structured around three programs, virtual Q&As with the filmmakers as well as professional development sessions.

Supported by the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund, the series was curated by Full Spectrum Features lead programmer Raúl Benítez and Viviana García Besné, founder of Permanencia Voluntaria and Baticine, a micro-cinema in Mexico City. This is their second collaboration after their wonderful double-feature presentation of the 4K restorations of El Santo’s first two films shot in Havana—Santo contra el cerebro del mal and Santo contra hombres infernaleslast year at the Music Box Theatre.

Chicago Cinema Exchange: Mexico City was originally conceived as a live in-person cross-border event. Benítez, García Besné and Full Spectrum had plans to send three Chicago filmmakers to Mexico City to host the screenings; they had even picked up the venues. But when Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order on March 16, they had to figure out how to transform the event into an online experience. “In some ways the program is flexible and we were able to do more things,” said Benítez. “Also going virtual has opened up the program to a bigger worldwide audience. Thankfully the filmmakers stayed with us and worked with us when switching to virtual.”

“It was a challenge to put together a program that addresses a subject as delicate as displacement,” said García Besné. “We had to find strong compelling short films that would cover this issue from different points of view, and also find a way in which the films we selected interacted to tell a bigger story. For the Mexican program, films came from unexpected places. One was recommended by a lawyer I was consulting, another one came from an old friend who sent me a link for her niece’s film.”

The series starts with Nostalgia & Memory: What We Leave Behind (June 23-28) featuring Pegah Pasarlar’s Sunday, the story of a woman revisiting her family’s immigration history on her 30th birthday; Mi edad, la tuya y la edad del mundo Fernanda Tovar’s delightful documentary about her grandmother’s reluctant move from her apartment after it was badly damaged by the 2017 Mexico City earthquake; and Titixe, Tania Hernández Velasco’s award-winning documentary about her family’s final attempt at cultivating their patriarch’s long abandoned.

Violence & Survival: What We Lose (June 30-July 5) looks at violence against women, whether it be Mexico’s rampant feminicide (Las desaparaecidas, Astrid Domínguez’s gritty story of a mother’s relentless search for answers in her daughter’s death) or sex trafficking in Ecuador (La mitad del mundo, where Chicago-based filmmaker Erika Valenciana combines animation, live action and interviews to bring to life the stories of three young survivors).

The final program, Journeys: Where We Go (July 7-July 12), explores through a kaleidoscopic collage of found footage, interviews and reenactments how a woman was forcefully institutionalized as a teen by her family after coming out as lesbian in 1970s Chicago (José Luis Benavides’ Lulu en el jardín) and the efforts by bird watchers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to protect and preserve the world’s most beautiful bird species (Otilia Portillo Padua’s Birders).

Register for the screenings and online sessions over at Full Spectrum Features.