Love, heartbreak, drama—some of the best offerings at week two of the 32nd annual Chicago Latino Film Festival are both beautiful and daring. The film festival kicked off last Friday and continues through Thursday, April 21. While my recommendations for last week were a pair of thrillers from Mexico and Ecuador, this week's must-sees are an unconventional love story from Costa Rica and a masterful art film about agrarian hardship from Colombia.
Viaje (Spanish for “Journey”) is my favorite film at this year’s CLFF—it's essential viewing for anyone looking for a great “date movie” this weekend. The second film from Costa Rican writer/director Paz Fabrega tells the deceptively simple story of a man and a woman who meet drunk at a costume party, have a one-night stand, then spontaneously decide to go camping for the weekend, all while conversing about love, sex, relationships and the remote possibility of a future together. While American indies that cover similar terrain tend to focus on men behaving badly or filter their dialogue through layers of hipster irony, Fabrega’s characters are refreshingly sincere and emotionally forthright. Imagine a sexier—and more female-centric—version of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset and you’ll have some idea of what Fabrega is up to in this charming, bittersweet film.
Cesar Acevedo’s Land and Shade deservedly won the Camera d’Or (a prize for first-time filmmakers) at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, though its slow pace and use of daringly under-lit interiors won’t be for all tastes. More adventurous viewers, however, will be plenty rewarded by this quietly powerful drama. The documentary-like film follows an elderly farmer returning to family he abandoned years before, reconnecting with his ex-wife and son (the latter of whom suffers from lung disease after fires set to clear the sugar cane fields around them) and meeting his daughter-in-law and grandson for the first time.
Viaje screens Thursday, April 14 and Saturday, April 16. Land and Shade screens Saturday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 20. All screenings occur at AMC River East. For more info and showtimes, visit the Chicago Latino Film Festival website.