35th Chicago Latino Film Festival Opens, Features World, Chicago Premieres Through April 11

As one impressive international film festival wraps up, another is just getting underway. On Thursday, the 35th Chicago Latino Film Festival begins with a gala screening of Yuli, a biopic on the life and work of Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta, and then runs for two solid weeks of films, events and special guests. On through April 11 at AMC River East 21 downtown, the annual festival features films from every corner of Latino culture, as films from Brazil to Spain, Costa Rica to Venezuela make their way to Chicago for this concentrated presentation.

Image courtesy of Chicago Latino Film Festival

Festival programmers bring to the festival no fewer than 23 feature-length films that make their debut in Chicago; both Resistance, set in 1961 Brazil amidst the turmoil of a changing government, and What I Feel For You, about parents raising disabled children in Dominican Republic, will enjoy their world premieres at CLFF. Several more, including Amalia from Colombia, Mystic Rose from Peru and Memoirs of a Man in Pajamas from Spain find their first screenings in North America happening during the festival.

In partnership with Instituto Cervantes, CLFF presents a screening of The Longest Night on Monday, April 1; the film, directed by Gabriela Calvache, is the story of a woman forced into prostitution who fights back against those who’d conscript other young women into similar involuntary sex work. A co-production between Ecuador and Mexico, the event will feature small bites and beverages inspired by Ecuadorian culture. Not a bad option for a Monday night in Chicago.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll feature some selections from what’s playing throughout the festival, so keep an eye on this space for our picks and previews (one is included below). The 35th Chicago Latino Film Festival wraps up on Thursday, April 11, with El Reality, as filmmaker Rodrigo Triana returns to the festival with a satire on reality TV culture. Learn more about all that’s on offer at the festival here.

The Last Chance
Image courtesy of Chicago Latino Film Festival

The Last Chance

Based on the life of Fabio Leão, a Brazilian muy thai fighter who made his way from the slums of Rio to championship bouts, The Last Chance begins with Fabio (played by Marco Pigossi) leaving prison, and immediately reuniting with his criminal contacts. These are the only friends he has, and on the mean streets, theft is the only way he knows how to make a living. But after a botched robbery attempt, Fabio wanders into a boxing gym, and is by chance scouted by the establishment’s owner. He’s a natural, and rises quickly in the sport, winning fight after fight, but the money is still not as good as the quick cash he’s used to. Fabio’s family and girlfriend Luciana (Juliana Lohmann) do all they can to encourage the prize fighter to keep on the straight and narrow, but the allure of the criminal world continually pulls him back, threatening to ruin an illustrious career.

The film packs a lot of storytelling into its run-time, spanning Fabio’s rise and fall and eventual redemption, but its lack of details make for an oddly impersonal experience. And the producers seem to be hedging their bets here, relying on the film’s “based on a true story” title card to account for some of the more ludicrous moments, such as Fabio’s light-speed transformation from novice to prize-winning fighter or his sudden third act drug problem. It’s clear that director Paulo Thiago is aiming for some cinematic invention, juggling a romance, crime drama, and a classic boxing picture in this true story of grit and determination, but as a cohesive experience, The Last Chance lands a few punches short of a knockout. –Matthew Nerber

The Last Chance screens on Sunday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 3. Learn more and get tickets here.

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Lisa Trifone