Opening Night film The Wingwalker took the top prize for Best Feature Film while Indigo, Julio López Fernández’s documentary about the sexual abuse suffered by women during El Salvador’s civil war, won the award for Best Documentary. 

Till Your Soul Dances, Karla D. Oceguera’s beautiful story about a woman who wishes to join a dance school but can’t, wins the award for Best Short.

The International Latino Cultural Center announces the winners and runner-ups for the 40th Chicago Latino Film Festival’s Audience Choice Awards.

The Audience Choice Award for Best Fiction Feature went to The Wingwalker, Alonso Álvarez Barreda’s touching film starring Omar Chaparro and Teatro Vista ensemble member Max Arciniega about a father who must find a way to return to the United States, after being deported, to attend his daughter’s heart surgery. The Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary went to Indigo, a Salvadoran documentary that recreates the testimonies of two women sexually abused by the armed forces and the guerrilla group FLMN during that country’s civil war. Till Your Soul Dances, Mexican director Karla D. Oceguera’s charming story about a woman’s desire to return to a dance school won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short.

Even though CLFF is a non-competitive festival, since 1993 the public has had the opportunity to vote for their favorite film in several categories for the Audience Choice Award. 

The Chicago Latino Film Festival, held April 11th-April 22rd, presented 50 features and 35 shorts from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the United States in three venues throughout the city: Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave.; Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio St.; and the Landmark Century Center, 2828 N. Clark St. The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation was a Presenting Partner of the 40th Anniversary of the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

“Every year, I promise that the next festival will be the best yet but this 40th edition was truly special and memorable. It was so gratifying to see so many new, and young, faces at each and every one of our screenings, engaging with the more than 90 visiting filmmakers who came to the Festival for our post-screening Q&As and afterwards. These Audience Choice Award winners are representative of the type of stories that speak directly to our community’s experience and to the world at large. We hope that this award will help these films reach a wider audience in the near future,” said Pepe Vargas, executive director and founder of the International Latino Cultural Center and the Chicago Latino Film Festival.


The winners and runner-ups of the 40th Chicago Latino Film Festival Audience Choice Awards are:


Winner: The Wingwalker (Mexico/USA; Director: Alonso Álvarez Barreda): Starring Mexican actor and comedian Omar Chaparro and Teatro Vista Ensemble member Max Arciniega (who also co-wrote and executive produced the film), The Wingwalker is the story of Julian, a father and widower whose life takes an unexpected turn when a misdemeanor lands him in jail and he is eventually deported to Mexico. Julian’s nine-year-old daughter, Sofia, who has been diagnosed with a terminal heart disease and is scheduled for a heart transplant in two weeks, is left in the care of her irresponsible uncle, Nick. Knowing the possibility of never seeing his daughter alive again is real, Julian fights to go back by any means necessary. In the process, he comes face to face with the harsh realities faced by many migrants who make their way to the U.S. border. 

Second Place: The Kings of Salsa/Los reyes de la salsa ingwalker(Puerto Rico; Director: Raúl García): Raúl García (A Wedding in Castañer) tells the story of one of the most important partnerships in the history of salsa: Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. The Kings of Salsa begins in the streets of New York City where both future legends meet, and proceeds to cover the key moments of their careers, their highs and their lows as well as Ray’s conversion as a born-again Christian. 

Third Place: The Teacher Who Promised the Sea/El maestro que prometió el mar (Spain; Director: Patricia Font): Ariadna’s grandfather has for decades searched for the remains of his father who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War. She travels to the northern city of Burgos, where the remains of the war’s victims are being exhumed from a common grave. There she learns the true story of Antoni Benaiges, a teacher in a small, isolated village in Burgos who established an intense relationship with his students, a group of young boys and girls between the ages of six and twelve, and promised to take them to see the sea for the first time in their lives. Among Benaiges’ students: Ariadna’s grandfather.


Winner: Indigo/Añil (El Salvador/Mexico; Director: Julio López Fernández): Based on the research by Professor Paula Cuellar Cuellar on the sexual violence committed against women by both El Salvador’s armed forces and the guerrilla group FMNL (sometimes to their own female members), Añil recreates the testimonies of two of them with three actresses. López Fernández uses the history of the color indigo (used in the Salvadoran flag and in the cloth that shrouds women’s faces to protect their identity) to narrate the exploitation of land and bodies in El Salvador. 


Second Place: Water for Life (Honduras/USA; Director: Will Parrinello): Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Water for Life tells the story of three extraordinary individuals: Berta Cáceres, a leader of the Lenca people in Honduras (herself the subject of last year’s Festival selection I Am Bertha); Francisco Pineda, a subsistence farmer in El Salvador; and Alberto Curamil, an indigenous Mapuche leader in Chile. All refused to let government supported industries and transnational corporations take their water and redirect it to mining, hydroelectric projects or large scale agriculture. Narrated by Diego Luna, Parrinello’s documentary is a story of courage and determination.


Third Place: The Sacred Family/La sagrada familia (Spain/Scotland/Peru; Director: Borja Alcalde): Carmen and Sergio are ordinary parents with three teenage kids, juggling the pressures of family and work. They live in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, and they work as guides during Ayahuasca ceremonies. Their belief in the healing power of nature is at odds with the family’s growing addiction to technology – smartphones, videogames and Netflix. So they buy an old camper van and take a road trip to the Amazon rainforest, where they used to live, in order to ask nature how to find balance in the modern world.


Winner: Till Your Soul Dances / Hasta que el alma baile (Mexico; Director: Karla D. Oceguera): Alma, a middle-aged woman, longs to join dance classes, but her busy routine caring for her sick mother, Gladys, and her brother Rubén’s lack of support hinder her.

Second Place: Primos (Puerto Rico; Director: Ricardo Varona): During a trip to the west coast of Puerto Rico, 16-year-old Cristóbal suspects that his crush, Yazmín, and his cousin Marcos are secretly seeing each other.

Third Place: What the Soil Remembers (Ecuador/South Africa; Director: José Cardoso): What the Soil Remembers delves into the trauma of a community displaced during apartheid to make way for an institution linked to white supremacist ideologies. The film follows elders shedding light on this issue, revealing the resilience and wisdom targeted by a nationalist regime years earlier.


The 40th Chicago Latino Film Festival is sponsored by: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Humboldt Park Health, US Bank, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Lopez & Co., The Whitehall Hotel, Wintrust Bank, Tristan & Cervantes, Illinois Department of Commerce – Tourism, Illinois Film Office, Prado & Renteria, Azúcar Rococó and Instituto Cervantes

Media Sponsors: La Voz de Chicago, WTTW, CAN-TV, La Raza, Telemundo Chicago/NBC-5, Chicago Latino Network, Negocios Now, InSpanish Media, DBO Films   

The 40th Chicago Latino Film Festival receives additional support from: Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, Reva & David Logan Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Field Foundation /MacArthur Foundation, Art Work Fund, DCASE (Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), and Illinois Arts Council