Chicago-made film debuts
April 10 at Latino Festival

Gloricelly Martinez-Franceschi stars in “Urban Poet,” the Latino Film Festival’s only Chicago-made feature.

Among films from across the Americas screening at the 19th Chicago Latino Film Festival is the world premiere of Chicao TV producer Antonio Franceschi’s “Urban Poet” April 10 at the Biograph.

Franceschi made the picture in Humboldt Park last fall for a budget that puts “El Mariachi” to shame — “less than $5,000,” by his estimate.

The Festival, April 4-16, presents 68 features and 45 shorts from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the U.S. at the Biograph, 3 Penny Cinema and Facets Multimedia theatres.

Franceschi’s wife and business partner, Gloricelly Martinez-Franceschi, stars as the urban poet of the title. She plays a young woman who confronts the gradual loss of her community to gentrification, and finds a vehicle for her angst in the poetry slam circuit.

The Franceschis were inspired to make the film by the redeeming social messages they saw in poetry slams. “When we were out there hearing young Latinos, a lot of their poetry was really powerful,” Franceschi said. “It expresses the way that they deal with their struggles in a more positive light.”

Slam veterans, including Michael Reyes, perform their own poetry in the film, which culminates in a climactic poetry slam. The soundtrack is by Xavier Nogueras of Boca Music, who also performed in the film.

“Urban Poet” was lensed on Cannon XL-1 DV cameras by Felix Mendez and Derek Grace.

The Franeschis’ New Film production company owned most of the production gear they needed, and it with equipment donated by X-Ray Films. Franceschi further credits completing the film on such a tiny budget to widespread community support from Humboldt Park businesses, which provided locations and food at no cost.

The Franceschis turned to “Urban Legend” after shopping a more elaborate film, a baseball epic called “West Side Legends.” “Prospective investors wanted to change the story, have more sex and car explosions,” Franceschi said. “We decided it was better to produce it ourselves.”

Banking on the exposure they anticipate from “Urban Poet’s” run on the Latino festival circuit, the Franceschis plan to return to “West Side Legends” as their next feature project in 2004.

Franceschi cut his teeth in the rental department at Helix as a high school student in the early ?80s. He briefly attended Columbia College until he ran out of money and was forced to withdraw.

Among other TV projects, New Film produced the cultural series “Siempre Caliente” for Telemundo from 1998 to 2000, with Martinez-Franceschi as host. They’re developing a series about Latino entrepreneurs, “Latinos on the Move,” for PBS.

The film also plays Sunday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St.

The Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is hosting a benefit to cover promotional and festival expenses for “Urban Poet,” April 11 at 6 p.m. at the Roberto Clemente High School auditorium, 1147 N. Western.

See or call 773/704- 5785.?Ed M. Koziarski,