29th annual CHICAGO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL
When: Through April 25
Where: 600 N. Michigan and River East
Tickets: $11; students, disabled, seniors and AARP members, $10; festival pass (12 admissions), $100, $80 for ILCCC members, students, seniors and disabled
Info: (312) 431-1330; LatinoCulturalCenter.org
Updated: May 20, 2013 6:07AM
The Chicago Latino Film Festival rolls into its final week with “Maydays,” a winning romance between two high school kids from Pilsen and Winnetka. Directors Ben Kolak, Ricardo Gamboa and Catherine Sullivan borrow from Haskell Wexler’s “Medium Cool,” partly shot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, by shooting their characters amidst the May 2012 NATO Summit protests here.
“I’m going for Chicago Latino aesthetics and Chicago Latino politics,” said Gamboa, 32, in a phone interview. Now in graduate school at New York University, he once worked at Teatro Americano in Pilsen. Transcending “the conventional teen narrative” of John Hughes movies is a goal for the 29-year-old Kolak, a Maine West High School alum who wrote his University of Chicago undergrad thesis on the MTV reality show “Jackass” and “the conditions of culture in late capitalism.” His take on “Maydays” (which screens at 5 p.m. Friday, 600 N. Michigan): “Our characters are searching for their identity or subverting that expectation.”
Selected features are reviewed below. Films in Spanish, Portuguese and indigenous languages are screened with English subtitles.
10:15 p.m., “The Zebra” (Mexico): Two corpse-robbers take a zebra for an absurdist ride on the backroads of the Mexican Revolution. Slotted by the fest as a “comedy,” Fernando Leon’s appealing tale surprises with its cynical politics and surreal cruelty. There’s a clever epilogue that catapults the gringo-oriented duo to the present. Also, 5:15 p.m. Sunday.
4 p.m., “Tales of Masked Men” (USA/Mexico): Carlos Avila’s superior documentary relates the cultural history of lucha libre in Mexico City, where enmascarados (masked wrestlers) stage populist rites between technicos (good guys) and rudos (bad guys). One fan explains: “For Italians, there’s opera. For Mexicans, it’s lucha.” “We’re a very high-drama people,” adds Chicano studies prof William Nericcio. “Mexicans are essentially expressionist.” Shown with the documentary “Mexico Flamenco,” set in Barcelona. Also, 6 p.m. Wednesday.
7 p.m., “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (Venezuela): Venezuela entered Hernan Jabes’ thriller for consideration for the best foreign film Oscar. The tense plot connects an airline pilot, his cheating wife and a used- book hustler who kidnaps their son to pay off a gang colluding with dirty cops. Heavy-handed symbols are supplied by traffic jams, a jackhammer din and a schoolboy project on predators in the food chain. Also, 5:45 p.m. Monday.
8 p.m., “The Precocious and Brief Life of Sabina Rivas” (Mexico): Greisy Mena stars in the title role as a Honduran teen who seeks a singing career in the United States. Based on a Rafael Ramirez Heredia novel and directed by Luis Mandoki (“Innocent Voices”), this beautifully shot tragedy about ugly violence is set on the Mexican-Guatemalan border. Sabina is trapped by her Guatemalan madam, corrupt Mexican cops, an American counterterrorism agent and a murderous gang with facial tattoos. Also, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
5:45 p.m., “And However” (Cuba): Rudy Mora directs a cute drama suitable for kids and fans of Wes Anderson-style mise-en-scene. A schoolboy makes up a UFO sighting that inspires comic hysteria, with commentary in song by a wise girl with six pigtails. Also, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
8:15 p.m., “Man from the Future” (Brazil): Although the festival ends on Thursday, Claudio Torres’ comic time-travel romance is billed as the official closing- night film. This lark about a quantum physics prof is too zany for my taste. Also, 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
Bill Stamets is a Chicago free-lance reviewer and writer.