Since 1991, Dominican University has been one of the few suburban outposts for The Chicago Latino Film Festival. This month, Dominican will screen two festival films: A Silent Love (Amor callado) on April 12, and An Everyday Story (Una historia comun) on April 19. Each showing will begin with a reception, where empanadas and champagne will be served, and end with a question-and-answer session with the film's director.
Now in its 21st year, The Chicago Latino Film Festival presents feature films, short films and documentaries by Hispanic filmmakers from Latin America, the United States, Spain and Portugal. It started as an effort to "look at the cultural achievements of the Hispanic world in film," explains Dominican Professor Maria-Elena Bravo.
"A group of Hispanic people began to gather the best examples of films from Spanish-speaking countries, and also Brazil and Portugal, and brought them to Chicago," she says.
The project has been very successful, she adds. More than 100 films will be screened this year, primarily at three movie theaters in Chicago but also at 10 venue partners around the city and suburbs. (For a complete schedule of events and locations, see the film festival website at www.latinoculturalcenter.org. or call the festival hotline, 312/409-1757.)
Bravo, who teaches Spanish language and literature and chairs the department of modern foreign languages, has nurtured the connection between Dominican and the festival. It's a natural for the university, she notes, where about 20 percent of the students are Hispanic.
A student group, OLA (Organization of Latin American Students) is a co-sponsor of the event; members screened a number of festival movies before selecting the two that will be shown here. OLA "promotes Hispanic and Latino culture" on campus through a number of cultural events, explains senior Monica Padilla, the organization's president.
Invitations to the screenings also went out to Spanish clubs at a number of local schools, including Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick high schools.
Bravo is quick to add, though, that these films are intended for a wide audience.
"We want to educate our students, make them aware of the world. This is for all of the students, and people in the western suburbs, too," she says.
Padilla agrees. "One of the goals at Dominican is to promote diversity. It's important to be aware of everyone's cultures, not just ours," she says.
First up is A Silent Love, to be shown Tuesday, April 12. Directed and co-written by Argentine/Canadian Federico Hidalgo, the film is a love triangle and examines "the difficulties of inserting someone from one culture into another culture," says Bravo. It revolves around a middle-aged, Canadian film professor specializing in silent movies who strikes up a relationship with a young Mexican woman through an Internet dating service, travels to Mexico, marries her, and brings his wife and mother-in-law back to Canada.
On April 19, Dominican will screen An Everyday Story by Puerto Rican director Sonia Fritz. Set in a Caribbean country, it depicts changes that happen to a married couple when they're confronted by the arrival of the wife's old flame, thought to have died years ago in Vietnam and by another visitor, an Argentine writer. It demonstrates "how something solid and settled is really fragile and breaks," Bravo explains.
Both films will be shown in Spanish, with English subtitles. The screenings will be in Dominican's Eloise Martin Recital Hall, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest. Each film begins at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a 7 p.m. reception and followed by discussions with the directors. Tickets are $10 general admission, $6 for students, and are available at the box office, or by calling 524-6942.