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Chicago Latino Film Festival

The 16th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival, presented by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, runs Friday, March 31, through Thursday, April 13. Film and video screenings will be at Water Tower, 845 N. Michigan; Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton; Rubloff Auditorium, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson; the Field Museum, Roosevelt at Lake Shore Drive; Univ. of Illinois-Chicago Lecture Center B2, 750 S. Halsted; Northeastern Illinois Univ., 5500 N. Saint Louis; Dominican Univ. Fine Arts Building, 7900 W. Division, River Forest; and Metzli Video Cinema, Asociacion pro Derechos Obreros, 1838 W. 18th St. Tickets for most programs are $8.50; for students, senior citizens, and disabled persons, $8; and for ILCC members, $7.50. Festival passes, good for ten screenings not including special events, are $70; for ILCC members, $60. For more information call 312-431-1330. Films marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, MARCH 31

The Girl of Your Dreams

Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque) juxtaposes the grim and the farcical in this lavishly produced 1998 feature about a troupe of Madrid film people invited by Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels to shoot an Alpine flamenco musical at Germany's fabled UFA studio. The Spanish contingent, headed by the starlet Macarena (eye-catching Penelope Cruz) and her Svengali-like director, are glad to escape their war-torn homeland, but then the repellent Goebbels begins to pursue Macarena romantically, and the visitors witness the persecution of the Jews. Trueba wants to mock the banality of evil as Lubitsch did in To Be or Not to Be, except he trots out too many Nazi cliches and milks the Jews' helplessness to the point of bathos. He's more in his element evoking the film-business milieu in loving detail or noting the camaraderie that spurs apolitical artists to action. (TS) Buffet, cocktails, and music precede this opening-night program; tickets are $75, $65 for ILCC members. (Rubloff Auditorium, 6:00)

Short videos, program two

Dan Banda's hour-long Indigenous Always looks at the life of the Native American woman La Malinche and her role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Mauricio Velez Dominguez and Marcela Gaviria's Colombian short Top Bull (1999) profiles Pedro "Toro Tope" Duarte, a vaquero chief near the Orinoco River. (Facets Multimedia Center, 6:00)

If You Only Understood

Unable to get backing for a big-time movie musical, Cuban filmmaker Rolando Diaz instead shot this 1999 video chronicling his search for a dark-skinned young woman to play the lead. He and his crew roamed the streets of Havana, auditioning likely candidates, and the ten women Diaz interviews speak frankly about their dreams and heartbreaks, touching on emigration, abandonment, and racism. Their stories are mawkish but fascinating, told against the backdrop of a hopeless and dilapidated city, and as the process continues they begin to shape Diaz's proposed musical in a kind of Pirandellian collaboration. The uplifting finale--an impromptu production number staged in an alley--sums up the documentary's soul-searching, irreverence, and faith in the redemptive power of escapism. (TS) (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

Short videos, program one

The eponymous subject of Joe Cardona and Mario De Varona's Honey Girl (1998) is boxer Melissa "Honey Girl" Salamone. Phillip Rodriguez's U.S.-Mexican short Pancho Villa and Other Stories (1999) probes the legend of the Mexican revolutionary. (Metzli Video Cinema, 7:00)

Beloved/Friend

Ventura Pons directed this 1999 Spanish feature, a chamber psychodrama about love and desire, friendship and role playing. Jaume (Jose Maria Pou), an AIDS-stricken literature professor recently returned to Barcelona, is eager to unload his troubles on his best friend, Pere, and his favorite student, David, who moonlights as a hustler. The three men, along with Pere's daughter and wife, divulge their secrets and feelings in various one-on-one encounters, and their verbal tug-of-war, meticulously staged by Pons, is touching and intelligent. Especially good are the hulky, melancholy Jaume and Pere's high-strung wife, Fanny (Rosa Maria Sarda); unfortunately, the vacuous David (David Selvas) serves mostly as titillation, which may explain the silly sequence of him donning his bondage gear. (TS) On the same program, Golden Prostitute (1999), a Spanish short by Miguel Crespi Traveria. (Water Tower, 8:00)

Enthusiasm

Three Chilean friends watch their dreams of a utopian society fade as they struggle to get ahead under the Pinochet regime. Ricardo Larrain directed this 1999 feature. (Water Tower, 8:00)

Short videos, program four

Claudia Courbon's hour-long In Search of a Memory constructs an oral history of the African slaves brought to Colombia to pan for gold in the 16th century. In Penelope Price's An Angel Passes (1999) Argentinean artist Claudia Bernardi creates a work inspired by the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. (Facets Multimedia Center, 8:00)

Yepeto

Eduardo Calcagno directed this 1999 Argentinean feature about a love triangle involving a middle-aged professor and novelist, his lovely teenage student, and the student's ardent classmate. (Water Tower, 8:20)

Southern Border

Gerardo Herrero's 1998 saga of a Spanish immigrant rising to wealth and power in Buenos Aires is a curious albeit entertaining mix of racy melodrama and socialist hokum, with a supernatural twist that serves as the story's deus ex machina. Roque (Jose Coronado) arrives in the Argentinean port city in the late 1800s, just as it's about to boom, and schemes his way to the top with the counsel of a prescient ghost (Federico Luppi) and a hard-edged but pure-hearted madam (Maribel Verdu). Yet he always has time to help the downtrodden, and using his friendships with both the riffraff and the nouveau riche, Herrero (Comanche Territory) paints a colorful cross section of the populace and politics that transformed Buenos Aires into a dynamic metropolis by the end of the century. Despite some soap-opera flourishes and over-the-top acting, the film exudes an earthy, ribald spirit that's as seductive as the anthemic tango tunes on its sound track. (TS) (Water Tower, 8:40)

Men With Guns

A doctor (Federico Luppi) visits devastated communities in a hypothetical Latin American country in search of former students, whom he slowly discovers have been assassinated. He also meets up with an army deserter (Damian Delgado), who initially takes him hostage but ends up accompanying him from site to site. Flashbacks to horrors in which the kidnapper ambivalently participated as a soldier seem designed to make him sympathetic, but calculated framing and editing reveal exactly how writer-director-editor John Sayles faked the action in the most shocking of these, making the scene little more than smugly manipulative. Though he relies heavily on metaphysical tropes for profundity and some pretentious American tourists for comic relief, he seems to want us to contemplate real suffering--but the self-righteous tone of this elaborate 1997 production prevents this. (LA) (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

SATURDAY, APRIL 1

Men With Guns

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Water Tower, 3:30)

Raluy: A Night in the Circus

In Oscar Vega's 1999 Spanish feature, a ten-year-old girl leaves her TV-dominated home, finds the world's last circus company, and battles an evil television executive. (Water Tower, 3:30)

Short films, program one

Short films from Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:30)

Short videos, program three

In David Benavente's Chilean short Artificial Games (1999) a Russian girl living in Santiago befriends a blind thief. Stephen Olsson's Our House in Havana documents an aging Cuban-American woman's return to the island she fled in the 60s. (Metzli Video Cinema, 5:00)

Herod's Law

This delirious comic fable is a caustic indictment of Mexico's seedy political culture as well as director Luis Estrada's tribute to Orson Welles--particularly Touch of Evil, Welles's own giddily baroque tale of corruption at the border. During the national election in 1949, a lowly, simple-minded janitor named Vargas (like the Charlton Heston character in Touch of Evil) is appointed by a political boss to be mayor of San Pedro, where the previous mayor has been murdered by his constituents. Intoxicated by power and bribes, he repeats his predecessor's pattern of greed and capricious rule. In his only act of civic duty, he brings electricity to the peasants with the help of a wicked gringo (played to the hilt by Sid & Nancy director Alex Cox), their symbiotic relationship lampooning our exploitation of Mexico. Estrada references Touch of Evil throughout with his low-angle deep-focus shots, grotesque close-ups, and brassy, edgy sound track, and after the new mayor has laid waste to the village, he's rehabilitated in a scene whose iconography recalls Citizen Kane. The actors are uniformly excellent, embracing their arch roles without succumbing to caricature; Damian Alcazar stands out as Vargas, a meek toady transformed into a deranged despot. (TS) (Water Tower, 5:30)

Flowers From Another World

A small Castilean town with a shortage of unattached women organizes a fiesta for its love-starved bachelors but isn't prepared for three wild cards who show up. Iciar Bollain directed this 1999 Spanish feature. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Short videos, program five

Juan Carlos Borrero and Joaquin Gutierrez's Colombian film Ananeko (1991) examines the Huitotos and Andokes tribes along the Caqueta River. Carlos Azpurua's Venezuelan film Amazon, the Business of This World (1987) investigates the New Tribus, Protestant missions from the U.S. that have been accused of undermining indigenous cultures on behalf of multinational corporations. (Facets Multimedia Center, 6:00)

Flight of Fancy

Noel Qui–ones directed this children's film from Puerto Rico, about a young boy who finds a magical airplane and its pilot. (Water Tower, 6:40)

Water, Mud and Factories

A Cuban-American family in Florida prepare for its eldest daughter's "sweet 15" party in this 1999 family drama by Joe Cardona and Mario Varona. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

The American Tapestry

This feel-good video documentary (1999) argues that the U.S. is richer for being a tapestry of immigrant cultures--not exactly an original point. Director Gregory Nava presents stories of five families from different cultures and time periods, but he encourages false generalizations from particulars: we learn that the Jew immigrating in 1920 got in more easily than the Chinese in 1933, but the video never explains the difficulties eastern Europeans faced after the 1924 immigration law. Some interesting details emerge (copies of the Chicago Defender urging southern blacks to move north were "smuggled" into southern towns by railroad porters), but they get lost as Nava meanders through the ordinary (a veteran recalling World War II, a Mexican woman explaining that she loves her children). His principal idea of visual style seems to be inserting a sunset about every ten minutes. (FC) On the same program, Estetyka, a short film by Joao Machado. (Facets Multimedia Center, 8:00)

Rodents

An Ecuadoran juvenile flirts with a life of crime, encouraged by his ex-convict cousin, in this 1999 drama by Sebastian Cordero. (Water Tower, 8:00)

Glue Sniffer, Law of the Street

A homeless 11-year-old boy gets mixed up with drug dealers in this 1999 Venezuelan social drama by Elia Schneider. (Water Tower, 8:30)

The Amateur

A small-town loser sets out to redeem himself by beating the world's record for continuous bicycling in this 1999 Argentinean feature. Juan Bautista Stagnaro directed. On the same program, Juan Manuel Jimenez's 1999 Argentinean short Puzzle. (Water Tower, 9:00)

Enthusiasm

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

The Sentimental Teaser

Anonymous callers to a radio talk show reveal their romantic secrets to the world, a narrative device that links three separate stories. Cristian Galaz Garcia directed this 1999 Chilean film. (Water Tower, 9:10)

Breath of Life

A private detective trying to solve a woman's murder begins to explore her circle of lovers. Luis Ospina directed this noir-inspired 1999 mystery, a Colombian-French coproduction. (Water Tower, 10:30)

Beloved/Friend

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Water Tower, 11:00)

The Havana Quartet

A Spanish man travels to Cuba in search of his long-lost mother in this 1999 screwball comedy, a Cuban-Spanish coproduction directed by Fernando Colomo. (Water Tower, 11:00)

SUNDAY, APRIL 2

If You Only Understood

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Water Tower, 3:30)

Time for Revenge

A demolition expert hired by a construction company finds himself in danger after he uncovers corporate corruption. Adolfo Aristarain directed this 1981 Argentinean thriller. (Water Tower, 3:30)

Water, Mud and Factories

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 3:50)

Short videos, program five

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:00)

Flight of Fancy

See listing for Saturday, April 1. A benefit for the HIV services organization Project VIDA; tickets are $10. (Water Tower, 4:10)

Short films, program one

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Facets Multimedia Center, 4:30)

Short videos, program five

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Metzli Video Cinema, 5:00)

Nuyorican Dream

Few works have captured the powerful pull of ghetto life as well as this video by Laurie Collyer, which documents five years in the life of a Puerto Rican welfare family in Brooklyn. Only the oldest child, Robert, has escaped, to a Manhattan apartment and a career educating Latino kids; he's contrasted with the three drug-addled siblings he tries to help. Danny knows he should get a job but speaks passively about his life ("Shit flips on you"), while Robert reminds us that during Danny's teenage years in jail he received no education or vocational training. The older sisters became teenage mothers, and most of their children wind up living in grandmother's small apartment; Collyer's handheld camera does an excellent job portraying this crowded space and the interdependency of people living in such close quarters, so it's no shock when sister Tati loses her apartment and Danny is returned to prison for seven years. The grandchildren, though, are full of life--one plays in Danny's lap as he nods out, an image that leaves the viewer with the disturbing question of which way these kids are headed. (FC) (Water Tower, 6:00)

Tiradentes

Oswaldo Caldeira directed this 1999 Brazilian drama about a visionary explorer, set in 1789 during the movement to expel the Portuguese. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Road Dogz

Three Latino youths find their friendship tested as they wrestle with personal problems in this coming-of-age film by Alfredo Ramos. (Water Tower, 6:20)

Split Decision

Conventional but well crafted, this advocacy documentary by Texas filmmaker Marcy Garriott examines the predicament of top-ranked featherweight boxer Jesus "El Matador" Chavez. As a Chicago teenager in the early 90s, Chavez was sent to prison for armed robbery and then deported to his native Mexico; later he crossed the border illegally and settled in Austin to train for a career in the ring, and his quest for the world championship has been complicated by renewed troubles with the U.S. immigration service. Garriott charts his trials and triumphs, both in the ring and in court, using fight footage, voice-overs from Chavez, and interviews with his relatives, his trainers, and legal experts. Her approach is fairly prosaic--recurring shots of a bullring underscore an obvious parallel--yet the uncomplicated Chavez ennobles the story with his sincerity and boyish enthusiasm. (TS) (Water Tower, 6:40)

East of Hope Street

A teenage refugee from the horrors of El Salvador encounters the horrors of inner-city Los Angeles in this 1997 drama by Nate Thomas. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

We Shall Not Abandon

In 1994, during a round of parish consolidations, Cardinal Bernardin closed Saint Francis of Assisi Church near Roosevelt and Halsted, combining it with the recently renovated but poorly attended Holy Family Church just west of it. Though Saint Francis was originally built for German immigrants in the mid-19th century, mass there had been celebrated in Spanish since 1925; one advocate calls it "the mother church of the Mexican community." After many months of street protests by the congregation and an occupation of the church to save it from total demolition, it was finally reopened. The story is a heartening tribute to the power of direct action, but this 1999 video documentary by Jeffrey and Tanya Reshke is often awkward in execution. The filmmakers offer too many similar images of the church's interior and exterior, none particularly expressive in composition or movement, and some more creative attempts at illustrating the story, such as a zoom in on a burned-out building as a voice-over refers to "changing demographics," seem weirdly inappropriate. (FC) On the same program, God Speaks Spanish, a short film by Andres Orozco. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:30)

The Amateur

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:30)

The Valley

Gustavo Balza directed this 1999 Venezuelan film about a pregnant teenager whose predicament is complicated by pressure from her grandmother, her boyfriend, her doctor, and her priest. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Oriundi

Anthony Quinn is subtly magnificent as Giuseppe, grudgingly celebrating his 93rd birthday in Curitiba, Brazil, where three generations of his family have run a pasta factory his grandson is determined to sell. A young woman named Sofia (Leticia Spiller), claiming to be a distant cousin doing research on Italian immigration, easily ingratiates herself with the family and listens to Giuseppe's grandson tell stories about the past. Soon Giuseppe becomes convinced she's the reincarnation of his wife, whom he still misses bitterly more than half a century after her death. But Sofia's mysterious motives and identity aren't allowed to overwhelm the plot of this ethereal yet worldly 1999 drama, and her relationship to the dead woman stays wonderfully complex. Spiller and Quinn inhabit the fascinating, almost ageless characters fully, creating an intriguing, plausible sense of connection between them even though they occupy few of the same scenes. Directed by Ricardo Bravo; with Paulo Betti and music by Arrigo Barnabe. (LA) (Water Tower, 8:50)

Beloved/Friend

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

Rodents

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 9:10)

Short videos, program two

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:30)

MONDAY, APRIL 3

The Havana Quartet

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 6:00)

The Valley

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Herod's Law

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 6:20)

Under California-The Limit of Time

After accidentally causing the death of a pregnant woman, a young Mexican-American searching for solace travels to Baja California, the home of his ancestors. Carlos Bolado directed this 1998 Mexican feature. (Water Tower, 6:40)

The Amateur

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

Short videos, program two

See listing for Friday, March 31. Admission is free. (Northeastern Illinois Univ., 7:00)

Cuban Women: Branded by Paradise

This 1999 video's subtitle is supposed to be ironic--director Mari Rodriguez-Ichaso has assembled something of an anti-Castro screed, combining interviews with Cuban women emigres and brief conversations with Cubans forced into prostitution for lack of employment. Their individual stories are compelling: political prisoners describe unbearable conditions and beatings by guards; a poet recalls the mob that tried to force her to eat her own poems. "I'm not myself anymore--I've become a receptacle," says one woman, in an eloquent testament to the power of a repressive system. (FC) On the same program, Shoes, a short video from Nicaragua and the Netherlands by Fred Pelon. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:30)

Glue Sniffer, Law of the Street

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Road Dogz

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 8:30)

The Sentimental Teaser

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:50)

Rodents

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

Your Life Jacket Is Under the Seat

A musician named Tuleque (Jorge Esmoris) makes a dramatic exit from prison and sets about regrouping his band to perform in a competition, vowing to use the prize money to save a popular shrine from destruction. Angela (Pastora Vega) works for a drug dealer who's after Tuleque for stealing her heart. He's also the target of better-connected criminals, who see the site of the shrine as precious real estate. A voice-over narrator who exaggerates and makes jokes--some of them good--also becomes an integral part of the story, despite coy absences. Artful in structure and emphatic in its use of music and musical performances, this not-too-hip 1998 parody from Uruguay is both arch and earnest, its romantic tone built on playfully decadent crime-movie cliches, production design, camera work, and visual effects. Directed by Leonardo Ricagni. (LA) (Water Tower, 9:10)

TUESDAY, APRIL 4

Split Decision

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 6:00)

A Sweet Scent of Death

Egged on by his drinking buddies, a young man decides to avenge himself against a Gypsy who may have murdered the young man's lover. Gabriel Retes directed this 1998 drama, a Spanish-Mexican-Argentinean coproduction. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Yepeto

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Water Tower, 6:20)

Oriundi

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 6:40)

The Sentimental Teaser

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

Short videos, program three

See listing for Saturday, April 1. Admission is free. (Northeastern Illinois Univ., 7:00)

Short videos, program one

See listing for Friday, March 31. (UIC Lecture Center B2, 7:00)

Breath of Life

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Sons of the Wind

An Aztec princess, courted by the emperor Montezuma II, falls in love with a Spaniard who's washed ashore and mistaken for Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. Jose Miguel Juarez directed this 1999 drama, a Spanish-Italian-Mexican-Portuguese coproduction. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Herod's Law

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:50)

Spoils of War

David Blaustein directed this 1999 Argentinean documentary about women searching for children who were abducted in the late 70s and early 80s during the military dictatorship. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

Tiradentes

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 9:10)

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5

Give Me Power

A poor filmmaker in Mexico City resolves to get even with the hoods who stole his former wife's jeep. Fernando Sari–ana directed this Mexican feature. Buffet, cocktails, and music precede this special program, featuring appearances by Sari–ana and actors Demian Bichir and Cecilia Suarez; tickets are $50, $40 for ILCC members. (Field Museum, 6:00)

Spoils of War

See listing for Tuesday, April 4. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Things I Forgot to Remember

The Blessed Virgin appears in response to the prayers of a Cuban-American family after its youngest son rejects his Latino heritage and decides to Americanize himself by studying TV shows. Enrique Oliver directed this 1998 comedy, a U.S.-Spanish coproduction. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Only People

Ignacio (Pablo Echarri), a moody medical resident in Buenos Aires, has a reputation for getting too involved with his patients, but his compassion is combined with an urge to impress his parents and surpass his peers. The filmmaking techniques in this thoughtful if faintly sophomoric drama are occasionally inspired, occasionally gratuitous, but mainly methodical. Like life and episodic television, the movie is structured in segments that don't always resolve or lead directly to the next. It begins on an eerie note as Ignacio questions family members about the interests of comatose patients, whom he then talks to, hoping to inspire their recovery so he can present his findings at an upcoming conference. Later, as he stops juggling ambition and empathy, the intriguing, almost supernatural tone fades, giving way to something that's more conventional but still moving. Roberto Maiocco directed this 1999 Argentinean film. (LA) (Water Tower, 6:20)

Under California-The Limit of Time

See listing for Monday, April 3. (Water Tower, 6:40)

Short videos, program four

See listing for Friday, March 31. Admission is free. (Northeastern Illinois Univ., 7:00)

Short videos, program two

See listing for Friday, March 31. (UIC Lecture Center B2, 7:00)

Your Life Jacket Is Under the Seat

See listing for Monday, April 3. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

Black Tears

Watching this 1997 documentary about Cuban salsa pioneers Vieja Trova Santiaguera, one wishes that director Sonia Herman Dolz had tried harder to capture the men behind the public masks. Dolz presents many scenes of the elderly musicians as they rehearse and perform, and a few obligatory backstage interviews in which the five bandsmen muse over their lives, but the film contains few truly candid shots. Evidently the musicians are never crabby, never snap on the road, never say or do anything scandalous or even human. They do, however, make a pilgrimage to a statue of Karl Marx, where the band's leader rhapsodizes about the Cuban government's generous support--Don't Look Back this ain't. Still, every time the band dips into its repertoire of intensely moving songs, the film soars. (Jack Helbig) On the same program, Bye Bye Prison (1998), a Spanish short by Michael Aguilo. (Dominican Univ., 7:30)

Betrayal

Three short stories by Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues inspired this 1998 anthology film about sexual infidelity, directed by Arthur Fontes, Claudio Torres, and Jose Henrique Fonseca. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Flowers From Another World

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (Water Tower, 8:30)

The Cloud

A small independent theater in Buenos Aires struggles to survive, threatened by lack of funds, power shortages, construction of a shopping mall nearby, and a rainstorm that's been going on for 1,600 days. Fernando E. Solanas (The Hour of the Furnaces) directed this 1998 Argentinean film. (Water Tower, 8:50)

Spirit of My Mother

Sonia (Johana Martinez), a young Honduran woman working as a maid in Los Angeles, is disturbed by dreams of her dead mother beckoning her to return home. Her life as a single mother in the U.S. is bleak and disappointing, and the film's handling of it borders on the amateurish. But once Sonia arrives on the east coast of Honduras among the Garifuna, a mix of West Africans and Carib Indians, the film acquires a poetic (if uneven) tone. Its raison d'etre seems to be the Dugu, an elaborate West African ritual that appeases the spirit of the dead; Sonia's extended family cook a feast by the sea, sing and dance, pray to tribal gods, and follow up with a Catholic mass. The story of a woman reclaiming her tribal roots recalls Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust, though this 1998 feature by Ali Allie is less lyrical and more modest in scope. (TS) On the same program, The Age of the Heart (1999), a Brazilian short by Tamy Marrachine. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

Loop

Julio A. Sosa-Pietri directed this 1998 Venezuelan film about existential playwright Alejandro del Rey. (Water Tower, 9:10)

THURSDAY, APRIL 6

Cuban Women: Branded by Paradise

See listing for Monday, April 3. (Facets Multimedia Center, 6:00)

Ecstasy

A trio of friends plot to become wealthy by robbing their own relatives in this 1996 Spanish film by Mario Barroso. (Water Tower, 6:00)

Garage Olimpo

Italian-Argentinean director Marco Bechis reopens an ignoble chapter in Argentina's recent history with this fictional 1999 story of a young woman kidnapped and tortured during the military dictatorship of the late 70s. Maria (Antonella Costa), a university student who teaches in a ghetto school, lives in the boardinghouse run by her mother (Dominique Sanda of The Conformist). The young woman's only crime seems to be compassion for the poor, yet a band of armed men claiming to be from the military take her to a secret prison (the garage of the title), where she's repeatedly stripped and interrogated. Her only hopes of escape are her mother, who learns that other citizens have disappeared as well, and one of her captors, who's fallen in love with his victim. Bechis probes the psychological scars of the era, noting the cruelty and caprice of the clandestine goons who served the dictatorship, and cinematographer Ramiro Civita creates a harrowing vision divided between dark, claustrophobic prison cells and overhead shots of Buenos Aires, an urban grid under constant surveillance. (TS) (Water Tower, 6:00)

Final Rite

Oscar Urrutia Lazo directed this Mexican feature about a photographer who loses his shadow during an Indian ceremony and follows the tribe in hopes of reclaiming it. (Water Tower, 6:20)

Lisbon

Carmen Maura stars as a housewife in flight from her well-to-do family who convinces a Portuguese video and CD salesman to give her a lift to Portugal before they catch up with her. This 1999 Spanish film teases a lot of intrigue from the family's involvement in some sort of business corruption, and the mutual enmity and nastiness between family members is as thick as anything in middle-period Claude Chabrol, though not nearly as interesting. On the other hand, director Antonio Hernandez's 'Scope compositions are so inventive and engaging that this action thriller held my attention long after I ceased caring about any of the characters. (JR) (Water Tower, 6:40)

East of Hope Street

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Facets Multimedia Center, 7:00)

Short films, program one

See listing for Saturday, April 1. (UIC Lecture Center B2, 7:00)

Short videos, program four

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Metzli Video Cinema, 7:00)

Short videos, program one

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Dominican Univ., 7:30)

Black & Gold

This 1999 video advocates the cause of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, a former New York City street gang that claims to have transformed itself into a political organization. Nation leader King Tone, radical attorney Ron Kuby, and others make a plausible case that the group has been targeted by police, suffering massive arrests but few convictions, because they're attacking the capitalist system instead of killing each other. Directors Richard Rowley and Jacquie Soohen combine hip-hop beats with a variety of visual techniques to capture the group's spirit and the contradictions under which they operate. Some of these--anamorphic stretching that widens people's faces, superimposing colorful graffiti over images of the group--prove more distracting than illuminating, while the video ignores many basic questions, such as whether the group has truly shed its criminal past. (FC) On the same program, The Page (1998), a Mexican short by Eduardo Soto-Falcon. (Facets Multimedia Center, 8:00)

Short films, program two

Short films from Ecuador, Argentina, and the U.S. (UIC Lecture Center B2, 8:10)

Blind Sky

A woman has an encounter with a career criminal while making a bus trip through southern Chile. Nicolas Acu–a directed this 1999 feature. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Yepeto

See listing for Friday, March 31. (Water Tower, 8:30)

Oriundi

See listing for Sunday, April 2. (Water Tower, 8:50)

Rebellion in Patagonia

Based on a true story, Hector Olivera's 1974 Argentinean film dramatizes a struggle between landowners and striking peasants in the 1920s. (Facets Multimedia Center, 9:00)

Sons of the Wind

See listing for Tuesday, April 4. (Water Tower, 9:10)

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