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CLFF 2023 – The Truths & The Shape of Things to Come

April 19, 2023

Perspective, or a point of view is something all storytellers must decide on. Whose perspective will the story be told from? Will there be a singular or dominant point of view or will multiple viewpoints collide? What can characters (or better yet, viewers) learn from more than one perspective? Having seen two films back to back at the 39th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival recently, I found myself ruminating how a character’s perspective can guide the path of a film’s story. One film weaved a half dozen perspectives while another found one particular point of view weigh heavily throughout the film’s story.

Both South American films could be categorized as genre films, yet they’re also on the fence bordering more than one genre. While there are times when a film that straddles genres can feel tonally jarring or a bit all over the place. Not these two films. That’s mostly due to the absorbing nature of the stories being told here. Viewers are pulled in and guided along into worlds inhabited by intriguing characters and thankfully the filmmakers trust us, leaving the audience to do the math, rather than spelling it all out.




With “As Verdades (The Truths)”, Brazilian director José Eduardo Belmonte has crafted a film that has its roots in film noir while also conjuring some of the neo-noir that came out in the 90s American independent cinema, such as “Red Rock West”, “After Dark, My Sweet”, and “Pulp Fiction”. It’s clear  the primary influence for screenwriter Pedro Furtado is Akira Kurasawa’s classic, “Rashomon”, a psychological thriller from 1950 that’s known for a plot device that involves various characters providing subjective, alternative and contradictory versions of the same incident. That’s exactly what is employed here in a mostly affective manner.

The various storylines told in “As Verdades” are set in the Bahia countryside (one of 26 states in Brazil) and revolve around the murder of a local politician Valmir (Zécarlos Machado), told by those potentially involved or who may or may not had motives to carry out such a deed. Throughout the film, Belmonte and Furtado give us just enough information to give us an idea that, while Valmir was heavily promoted throughout the coastal town – with a fair portion of the population supporting him, claiming God has chosen Valmir (sounds familiar) – others were highly suspicious of the candidate.

The first to become a suspect is local hothead, Cicero (Thomás Aquino), who admits to having lustful eyes on Valmir’s wife, Francesca (Bianca Bin), and even develops a stalker presence around her…or is that from a certain point of view? Francesca can certainly be considered as a suspect, since we’ve always been trained to immediately look to the spouse, especially the younger attractive ones who could have a secret lover. We learn a former flame of Francesca’s is the recently appointed sheriff, Josué (Lázaro Ramos), who is investigating the crime…or could he be a suspect as well? Them there’s Francesca’s mother (Drica Moraes), who has her own reasons for disliking Valmir and let’s not discount an officer (Edvana Carvalho) that Josué works with. Anyone could be the murderer and with each storyline, Belmonte and Furtado leave us to wonder whose truth is the truth.

This is the kind of story that could be a limited series, with each episode focusing on one specific character’s point of view, but clocking in at just under two hours there’s certainly enough here to satiate viewer’s interest. Belmonte makes the most out of the sweltering setting and with the help of a talented cast “As Verdades” definitely immerses viewers in curious storylines with complex characters. Standout performances come from Ramos and Binn – especially Bin, who conveys different sides of her character with each character point of view. However, the overall journey is much more satisfying than the actual ending.






The dystopian setting in Peruvian writer/director Victor Checa’s “Tiempos Futuros (The Shape of Things to Come)” is hinted at in just the right subtle ways. There’s no virus outbreak or global devastation, but there in this sparsely populated city, which could be Lima, no one has seen or felt rain in a very long time. Oddly enough, it seems like they haven’t seen the sun either, with overcast skies weighing down the aesthetic of the world Checa has created. Much of the atmospheric story takes place at night, a time when characters can get lost in themselves or find a sense of belonging elsewhere.

That’s what happens with the father-and-son duo here. Intrepid teenager Teo (Lorenzo Molina) lives on the tenth floor of an apartment building with his inventor father, Luis (Fernando Bacilio), who spends all hours obsessing over a machine he’s creating that he believes can produce precipitation. Luis has trained Teo to learn certain survival skills, as well as learning how to tell what specific resources are with his eyes closed. Teo goes along with his father’s single-minded obsession, but it gradually becomes clear he just hasn’t adopted the kind of passion for the project. Eventually, he finds acceptance in a local quartet of peers who engage in clandestine criminal activity.

While Checa has directed a handful of shorts, “Tiempos Futuros” is his feature-length debut and it’s a fascinatingly absorbing one at that. His cast of chiefly non-professional actors (apart from Peruvian actor, Bacilio) carry the story in a believable and naturalistic manner. As Teo, Molina has a captivating screen presence and the fact that Checa gives him a role that is largely light on dialogue is a benefit to the portrayal since its not uncommon to see most teen boys keeping to themselves. Bacilio nails a more challenging role in that the father’s neglect isn’t intentional or overtly abusive, he’s just completely lost in his mission. It almost seems that if he doesn’t hold on to his project, his life will have no meaning.

Checa and cinematographer Fergan Chávez-Ferrer make the most of the environment provided by the set designers, creating shadows and shades of blues and greys that paint a drab environment that at times seem to close in on the characters (and the audience). Checa also employs a mostly square ratio that adds a certain claustrophia to the story being told and the use of sound plays an integral part in evoking a strange presence that seems to buzz under the surface of this lo-fi science fiction landscape.

It’s uncertain sure why the English title isn’t just “Future Times” (which is what “Tiempos Futuros” means), but in a Q&A after the screening I saw at the Landmark Century Theatre, Checa mentioned he had long been inspired by H.G. Wells’ novel 1933 The Shape of Things to Come (which interestingly enough was adapted into a low-budget sci-fi flick back in 1979, starring Jack Palance), but it seems to make sense that this somber and provocative tale has its origins in a story from long ago that prophesizes what the world will look like in the far future. Checa definitely provides the film with a curious and infectious aura that transcends time.

RATING: ***1/2



Preceding “Tiempos Futuros” a 24-minute short “Lunch Break (Chão de Fábrica)” was shown, the debut from writer/director Nina Kopko that takes place in 1979 Brazil, as four female co-worker take their lunch break from their factory jobs…not in a cafeteria, but in a washroom. As a perspiring hour passes, the women talk and laugh about life outside and inside their workplace and sometimes get angry and contemplative. Kopka gives each actor breathing room and narrates an epitaph for each of them, reminding us that unseen and overlooked women in the workplace have their own distinctive and individual voices that should be heard.

RATING: *** 



The Chicago Latino Film Festival runs through Sunday, April 23rd and details including the complete lineup and tickets can be found here. 

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