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CLFF 2023 – The Fishbowl & Octopus Skin

April 15, 2023


The longest running Latino film festival, the Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF), returns for its 39th year! The festival will run from April 13th through April 23rd and will include 51 features and 35 shorts from Latin America, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Spain and the United States, with most of them screening at Landmark Century Center at 2828 N. Clark St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. This will be the U.S. premiere for many of the films, some of which have been screened at other film festivals outside of the States.

This year’s festival kicked off on Thursday, April 13th, at the AMC River East theater in Chicago with “Amore y Matemáticas” (Love and Mathematics), a comedy directed by Claudia Sainte-Luce (“The Amazing Catfish”), about a stay-at-home suburban father who used to be in a boy band and is encouraged by a neighbor/fan to resume his music career.

So far, I’ve watched a couple of films, one filmed in Puerto Rico and one in and around Ecuador, both of which are quite fascinating. I hope to view and review other films from the festival since its running for 10




Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Glorimar Marrero Sánchez makes her confident feature-length debut with “The Fishbowl (La Pecera)”, an arresting modern-day drama set in Puerto Rico and focusing on a woman seeking healing and a people still dealing with the aftermath of colonization. With her cancer returning, Noelia (a vibrant and bold performance from Puerto Rican actress, Isel Rodríguez) has decided to take a more holistic approach, leaving behind the treatment that made her sick the last time. She travels to Vieques, the eastern island where she grew up and where her mother (Magali Carrasquillo) and friends (including an old flame played by Modesto Lacén), still live, leaving behind her suffocating albeit well-intended boyfriend in San Juan. Seeking serenity and autonomy, Noelia reconnects with a place that was poisoned by U.S. military exercises decades ago, hoping to find comfort and hope amid great pain, as a volatile Hurricane Irma looms.

The title of the film could pertain to the way someone with an illness (especially a terminal one) often feels, enclosed by a sickness and on display for all to see. While Noelia is surrounded by those who care about her, they must also learn to give her space as she navigates her own way through her diagnosis. In the lead role, Rodríguez is wholly captivating, conveying Noelia with lyrical grace and stubborn strength. Sánchez wrote, directed and co-produced “The Fishbowl” and excellently captures how the physical illness of a character can reflect the symptoms of a whole country.





Ecuadorian writer/director Ana Cristina Barragán creates an absorbing and enigmatic coming-of-age family drama with “Octopus Skin (La piel del pulpo)” a story revolving around inseperable 17-year-old twins, Iris and Ariel, who live a seemingly idyllic solitary life on a remote island with their older sister and mother, away from everyone. The children have grown up isolated from the mainland, in a captivating world of flowing beaches and animal life such as mollusks, reptiles and birds, yet their mother has told them not to go on a specific side of their island frequented by other people. Of course, teens will be teens. When their mother suddenly disappears, the world of these three children are forever changed. Iris winds up hitching a ride on a boat owned by a visitor and inevitably finds herself exploring a bustling modern world, a city teeming with people, shopping malls, and their estranged father. The physical disconnect from family takes a toll on each member in different ways and thrusts all of them into sudden growth and adaptation.

Just as an octopus changes to its environment, so too must these children evolve in order to survive. Barragán and cinematographer Simon Brauer affectively immerse viewers in the world that surrounds them, whether it be sandy beaches or dense jungles or the commotions of the city life, often interspersing scenes of how sea life cohabitate. The innocence of the characters (deftly portrayed by non-professional teens) is forced into an awakening that none of them could anticipate. Throughout the film, there is a somewhat mysterious and evocative tone, as if Yorgos Lanthimos and Terrence Malick worked on a project together.




You can find more information about the 39th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival here such as the lineup of films and ticket information.

Screenings at Landmark Century Center are $15 except on Monday and Tuesday when they are $12. Special Events at Insituto Cervantes are $30 and the opening/closing night galas are $75. ILCC members, students and seniors get discounted rates.

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