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Cinema of the Americas Features the Work of Nine First-Time Feature Filmmakers

CHICAGO, IL (September 24, 2013) - The 49th Chicago International Film Festival (October 10 - 24, 2013) will take audiences on a journey to the heart of contemporary Latin American cinema through fourteen feature-length films. Created to celebrate the vibrant and innovative work coming from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, this year’s Cinema of the Americas Program features the work of nine first time directors as well as the latest work by daring auteurs including Lucia Puenzo, Amat Escalante and Lúcia Murat.

These first time feature filmmakers are: Roberto Flores Prieto (Chasing Fireflies), Moisés Sepúlveda (Illiterate), Diego Quemada-Díez (La Jaula de Oro), Carlos Lechuga (Melaza), Dario Nardi (Sadourní’s Butterflies), Bernard Attal (The Invisible Collection), Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge (Tanta Agua) and José Luis Valle (Workers). Chasing Fireflies, Illiterate, and La Jaula de Oro are all competing in the New Directors Competition.

Other highlights include: Heli, Amat Escalante’s harrowing take on Mexico’s drug war and winner of the Best Director Award at Cannes and Mexico’s official submission in the Best Foreign Language Film Award category for next year’s Oscars®; Lucia Puenzo’s chilling thriller The German Doctor, about one man’s dangerous obsession with purity and perfection; and Purgatorio, Rodrigo Reyes’ stunning and challenging portrait of the complexity of life on the US-Mexico border. Many screenings will feature special appearances by the filmmakers. Full descriptions of these films follow this press release.

Cinema of the Americas

Chasing Fireflies Colombia (Director: Roberto Flores Prieto) - Manrique’s lonely existence watching over an abandoned salt mine in the remote Colombian Caribbean suits him just fine. Content in his isolation, with a dog that spends its nights chasing fireflies as his sole companion, his world is upended when his teenage daughter Valeria shows up as if out of nowhere. As the days pass, Valeria’s determined but cheerful presence forces Manrique out of his routine in this beautiful, understated story about family, love, and the small joys of life. North American Premiere. Director Roberto Flores Prieto is scheduled to attend.

The German Doctor Argentina/France/Spain/Norway (Director: Lucia Puenzo) - In Patagonia, 1960, an Argentine family meets a German physician on the long road to Bariloche. The first guest at the family’s newly opened inn, the wealthy doctor ingratiates himself into their home life with his charisma and his scientific knowledge. Little do they know, however, that they are housing one of history’s most monstrous criminals, and that he might be continuing his experimental practice in their own community in this chilling, captivating story. Chicago Premiere.

Heli Mexico (Director: Amat Escalante) - Factory worker Heli lives a modest life with his father and his sister Estela in rural Mexico. In a misguided attempt to finance his elopement with the 12-year-old Estela, police cadet Beto steals two large packages of cocaine, setting off a string of increasingly bloody consequences. Awarded the prize for Best Director at Cannes, Heli takes an unflinching look at the cycle of drugs and violence in contemporary Mexico, depicting immense brutality with shocking frankness. US Premiere.

Illiterate Chile (Director: Moisés Sepúlveda) - For fifty years, Ximena has managed to get by without being able to read. When Jackeline, a young unemployed teacher, comes into her life, Ximena’s isolation is disturbed. Jackeline’s efforts to teach Ximena how to read prove almost Herculean as they clash, but it soon becomes evident that the two women need each other in ways they could never predict. Mesmerizing performances drive this intimate, engrossing chamber drama about learning and acceptance. North American Premiere. Director Moisés Sepúlveda, producer Fernando Bascuñán, screen writer Pablo Paredes, co-producer Angel Maulen and assistant producer Pablo Egaña are scheduled to attend.

I Will Be Murdered Spain (Director: Justin Webster) - In May 2009, Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano was shot and killed near his home. Shortly beforehand, he had recorded a video to be released in the event of his death, accusing President Álvaro Colom Caballeros of orchestrating an assassination, a charge all too plausible in a country familiar with violence and corruption. Director Justin Webster brings the story of Marzano’s work and the subsequent investigation to life in this gripping documentary that plays like an intense police procedural. US Premiere

The Invisible Collection Brazil (Director: Bernard Attal) - After a tragedy throws his life into turmoil, the self-absorbed young Beto ventures deep into the Brazilian countryside in search of a collection of rare prints his absent father had sold to a wealthy plantation owner decades earlier. When he locates the plantation, he finds it devastated and its inhabitants staunchly resistant to visitors. A sophisticated, engrossing thriller, the film follows Beto’s efforts to uncover the mystery of the prints and the family keeping them hidden from the world. US Premiere.

La Jaula De Oro Mexico (Director: Diego Quemada-Díez) - Three Guatemalan teens depart on the treacherous 1,200-mile trek towards the United States, riding atop dilapidated trains in the hope of finding a new life. Together they must undergo an unrelenting, arduous journey in which no one they meet can be trusted and catastrophe waits around every corner. Constantly upending audience expectations, this unrelenting immigration thriller will leave viewers at the edge of their seats until its nail-biting climax comes to a shocking close. US Premiere. Director Diego Quemada-Díez is scheduled to attend.

La Paz Argentina (Director: Santiago Loza) - Returning home to Buenos Aires following a stint at a psychiatric clinic, sensitive, reserved teen Liso must work to rebuild his life. Struggling to reconnect with family and friends, he drifts from one experience to the next, while those around him unsuccessfully try to understand him. A quiet but impactful drama about one young man’s search for peace, La Paz explores the depths of unyielding loneliness with subtle yet intricate imagery, drawing the viewer into its complex emotional universe. Chicago Premiere.

Melaza Cuba (Director: Carlos Lechuga) - With the closure of the local sugar mill, the picturesque Cuban town of Melaza has become desolate and lifeless. School teacher Aldo and now-unemployed Monica eke out a meager living, going so far as renting out their tiny home to the local prostitute for extra cash. When they get in trouble with the authorities, the resulting fines lead to more desperate measures. This funny, heartfelt romantic drama explores the limits of love and trust in the face of hardship. Chicago Premiere. Director Carlos Lechuga is scheduled to attend.

Memories They Told Me Brazil (Director: Lúcia Murat) - Old friends, all onetime members of Brazil’s radical resistance, come together around Ana, the charismatic, fearless heart of their circle, now on her deathbed. As they think back on their choices and the paths they have tread, Ana’s spirit is a constant presence, reminding them of their shared, mythologized past. This Brazilian Big Chill passionately reflects on revolution and terrorism, love and sex, and the compromises that time exacts. US Premiere. Lúcia Murat is scheduled to attend.

Purgatorio Mexico, USA (Director: Rodrigo Reyes) ­-  By turns beautiful, brutal, and eye-opening, Rodrigo Reyes’ documentary offers a thoughtful portrait of the US-Mexico border. His wide-ranging aesthetic inquiry incorporates interviews with border-crossers, coroners, dogcatchers, police, and others on both sides, tying these disparate stories together through stunning imagery that depicts the border as an almost mythic place. Purgatorio is less concerned with polemics than it is with considering the human implications of defining and enforcing a line between two nations. Chicago Premiere.

Sadourní’s Butterflies Argentina/UK/Italy (Director: Dario Nardi) ­- Thrown in jail for a crime of passion, dwarf and former circus performer Sadourní finds re-assimilation difficult upon his release. Realizing that society holds his height against him, Sadourní goes to tortuous extremes for a “treatment” to alter his physical appearance, allowing him to fit in and to gain the attention of the woman he loves. A surrealistic melodrama reminiscent of Fellini, Sadourní’s Butterflies endows its subject with hallucinatory beauty. Chicago Premiere.

Tanta Agua Uruguay/Mexico/Netherlands (Directors: Ana Guevara, Leticia Jorge) - ­ Since his divorce, Alberto has not spent much time with his children, Lucia and Federico. A trip to the hot springs seems like an ideal getaway, but an unrelenting storm traps the three of them inside their tiny rented cabin. Alberto’s sunny optimism begins to drain as close quarters bring out the worst in everyone in this funny, affectionately drawn portrait of the classically fraught family vacation. Chicago Premiere.

Workers Mexico/Germany (Director: José Luis Valle) - After decades of working in a Tijuana factory, Rafael finds that, due to a technicality, he won’t be receiving a pension. Lidia works as a maid whose demanding boss devotes all her attention to her dog Princess. When her boss dies and leaves her fortune entirely to Princess, Lidia finds herself working for a canine millionaire. Gorgeously observed with striking visuals, Workers tells the moving, often absurdly funny story of two employees who are pushed to the breaking point. Chicago Premiere.

Ticket, Festival Passes and Theater Information

Festival Passes are on sale now. Pass options include:

Moviegoer (10 regular admissions): $95 for Cinema/Chicago members, $125 for non-members.

Passport (20 regular admissions): $180 for Cinema/Chicago members, $240 for non-members

Passes can be purchased online at

Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster; by phone at 312-332-FILM (3456); or by visiting the Festival box office at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.) or at the Cinema/Chicago office (30 E. Adams, Suite 800).

Festival screenings will be held at the AMC River East 21 Theater (322 E. Illinois St.).

Festival Sponsors

Led by Presenting Partner Columbia College Chicago, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival's sponsors include: Official Airline - American Airlines; Headquarters Hotel - JW Marriott Chicago; Producing Partners: AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partner: Intersites; Supporting Partners: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Effen Vodka, WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9FM, Cultivate Studios; Participating Partners: State Farm, AARP, Tres Generaciones®, Comcast, Allstate, Spotlight Cinema Networks, Casale del Giglio, Second City Computers, Shutterbox Entertainment, Gibson’s Restaurant Group, RL Restaurant and Creative Technology.

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About Cinema/Chicago

Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.