SEE UPDATE: the Chicago Latino Film Fest is postponed

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Pepe Vargas, the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Latino Film Festival sadly announced the postponement of the 36th annual festival.

Due to the concerns for the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the festival originally scheduled to open on April 16 through April 30 at AMC River East 21 Theatres, will be pushed to a further date, to be announced.

When I called Pepe today to check in and he told me about the postponement, I felt the pain of the effects this virus has on those who organize these big events and have to make the dreaded decision to cancel or postpone them.

I would like to share my conversation today with Pepe:

Pepe Vargas
Pepe Vargas

BR: Pepe I am worried about the wellbeing of the festival. Are you continuing as planned for your opening in April?
PEPE: It is good but we had to make it official that we have postponed the festival.

BR: That is really sad to hear. I just recently posted the announcement for your festival, but things have escalated so quickly I was concerned it wouldn’t open.
PEPE: It was beautiful. I saw the story announcing the opening screenings. I read it and it kind of pained me. This is what we had to offer, and we have put that aside to deal with this situation. 

BR: What is your feeling about the impact the virus is having on the community?
PEPE: I am quite confident that we will beat this. We have been through, as humankind, so many things. This is just one more and it is heavy and giant, but I guess we have gone to the moon so combatting this virus is something that can be done and I hope there will not be many victims. 

BR: I hope we will be talking again very soon when your festival is ready to open. Do you have any idea when you might want to reschedule?
PEPE: Well it is uncertain, but in talking to the theater, we do have three windows for opportunity there, but it just depends on when… the sooner the better, but who knows. I waited until the last minute because I felt it is still a month away because we are already invested. 

BR: I imagine as you wait you have to continue to spend money on staff and promotion.
PEPE: Yes, we spent $30,000 on the program that has already been printed. So we will withhold the distribution. So we’re just holding there, and wishing for the best, and once we have a clear idea to proceed we will do that.

BR: Hopefully this summer, things will calm down and you will have your opportunity.
PEPE: Thank you for your help and for your concern. We need to be in this together.

BR: And I am. Absolutely. I am there for you when you are ready to share some information but meanwhile I will let your festival followers know to watch for the announcement of the new festival date.
PEPE: Great. We will talk soon and please take care of yourself.

More than ever before, I have felt the warmth and concern of all whom I have checked in with during the week. Our conversations, whether spoken, text, or email have begun with “hope you are well” and ended with “stay well” and “take care of yourself.” 

I am leaving the news of the festival opening here as a reminder of what is to come. For I have no doubt, this show will go on.

First wave of titles for the 36th Chicago Latino Film Festival

From the much anticipated documentary on beloved astrologer and TV personality Walter Mercado to the latest works by such masters of cinema as Pablo Larraín and Alejandro Amenábar, this year’s program is, by far, their most ambitious and exciting yet.


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Ema | Chile | 2019 | Drama |Directed by Pablo Larraín
Mariana Di Girolamo delivers a fiery, take-no-prisoners star-making performance as the title character in Pablo Larraín’s most daring and vibrant film yet. Reggaetón dancer Ema’s marriage to choreographer Gastón (Gael García Bernal in his third collaboration with Larraín) is thrown into disarray after they are forced to reverse the adoption of their son Polo when he commits a shockingly violent act. Ema then embarks on an intense, risky journey of liberation and self-discovery, consequences be damned. With Ema, Larraín cements his reputation as a director who refuses to play it safe.


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Mucho Mucho Amor | USA | 2020 | Documentary / LGBTQDirected by Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch
Every single day for decades, extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic and gender nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world with his televised horoscopes. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter was a celebrated daily part of Latino culture, who at his peak reached over 120 million viewers. Since childhood, Walter was regarded as a healer, but his greatest miracle might have been his personal transformation from shy farm boy to flamboyant showman. Mucho Mucho Amor captures Walter’s final two years, when the pioneering icon grappled with aging and his legacy, as he prepared for one last star-studded spectacle.  


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While at War | Spain / Argentina | DramaDirected by Alejandro Amenábar
Winner of five Goyas including Best Supporting Actor for Eduard Fernández, Alejandro Amenábar’s (“Open Your Eyes,” “The Sea Inside”) first Spanish film in more than a decade tells the story of Franco’s rise to power. Spanish philosopher and academic Miguel de Unamuno initially declares his support to the military rebellion, drawing the ire of friends and fellow intellectuals. As Franco plots the overthrow of the young Republic, Unamuno reconsiders his position. As Unamuno, Karra Elejalde delivers a complex and nuanced performance, finding his perfect foil in Fernández as Franco ally, General Millán Astray.


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Divine Love | Brazil | 2019 | Drama, Science FictionDirected by Gabriel Mascaro
Brazil, 2027. The Party of Supreme Love has supplanted the Carnaval as the country’s main cultural event. Scanners in public spaces announce loud and clear a woman’s child-bearing status. And an active sex life is encouraged, as long as it leads to procreation. The deeply religious Joanna steers couples away from divorce even when her own marriage is on shaky ground. The fact that she cannot get pregnant no matter how often and with whom she tries will throw her faith into question. Gabriel Mascaro’s (“Neon Bull”) new film delivers a Day-Glo, synth-heavy, sensual and yet oppressive view of a not-so-distant Brazil.


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The Sharks | Uruguay, Argentina, Spain | 2019 | DramaDirected by Lucía Garibaldi
Winner of the 2019 Sundance World Cinema Directing Award, Garibaldi’s coming-of-age drama focuses on 14-year-old Rosina (Romina Bentancur) who claims to have seen sharks in the coastal waters of an Uruguayan resort. Soon after, her father hires her to do some maintenance work where one of his employees catches her eye: Joselo. Rosina experiences something new as she begins to circle him like a shark. Her desire could lead her down a very dangerous path. Powered by Bentancur’s intrepid performance, Garibaldi presents in her feature debut a sensitive portrayal of a teen’s sexual awakening.


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