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Photo: © Ivan Vega
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The Chicago Latino Film Festival: great selection with a lack of gender parity

Out of the 63 films selected, only ten are directed by women.

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When reading the Chicago Latino Film Festival grid, you feel nothing but pride about the stories Latinos and Latinx individuals are telling these days in film. However,  regardless of their great lineup, the Chicago Latino Film Festival is very far from achieving gender parity on its programming.

Amalia, Two Fridas, The Queen of Fear, The Longest Night, Heiress of the Wind, Roads in February, Decade of Fire, Rich Kids, Being Impossible and Yuli are the titles of the features directed by women.

These stories vary from tough dramas like The Longest Night (directed by Gabriela Calvache, Ecuador), where a mother has to turn to prostitution against her will; to moving coming-of-age stories like Roads in February (directed by Katherine Jerkovich, Uruguay/Canada) where a young woman packs up her backpack and travels from wintry Montreal to a small Uruguayan village and reunites with her estranged grandmother, Magda; to Being Impossible (Patricia Ortega, Venezuela), a film about Ariel, a young dressmaker who discovers a secret her family has tried to hide all of her life.

Yo, Imposible / Being Impossible - Official Trailer from Patricia Ortega on Vimeo.

On the other hand, the opening night is always a big event in any film festival and this year will feature Yuli (directed by Iciar Bolla) a film that tells the story about a young kid in Cuba (Yuli) and his complex yet passionate road to become the first black artist to dance the role of Romeo in the Royal Ballet in London.

The script is an adaptation from Carlos Acosta’s autobiography, with dance pieces created and choreographed by Acosta himself. Tickets for this event are already sold out.

The documentary section brings a compendium of eight features, qualified as “the strongest one in years” according to Pepe Vargas, founder and executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center and producer of the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

In this category, there are also a couple of films directed by women: Heiress of the Wind (directed by Gloria Carrión Fonseca, Nicaragua) and Decade of Fire (directed by Vivian Vázquez’s and Gretchen Hildebran, USA).

The first one tells the story of Carrión Fonseca herself, who once believed that the Sandinistas were superheroes but now, 36 years later, is trying to come to terms with the Nicaraguan Revolution and its own personal aftermath through intimate yet painful discussions with her parents about tragic deaths, disillusionment, and parenting.

Decade of Fire shows how most of the South Bronx neighborhood was reduced to ashes in the late 70s, a victim not only of the city’s financial crisis but also of such practices as redlining, white flight, crime and the illegal burning of buildings by unscrupulous landlords for their insurance value.

The 35th edition of the Chicago Latino Film Festival will take place from March 28 to April 11 at the AMC River East 21 and the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. It has a catalog of 63 features and 40 shorts from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the United States.

It seems that all that is left to be desired is that their upcoming editions will achieve gender parity so that women directors have the same opportunities to shine as their male colleagues do.

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