‘Dear Grandma’ Leads Audience Award Winners at Chicago Latino Film Festival

The International Latino Cultural Center announced today the winners and runner-ups for the 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival’s Audience Choice Awards.

The Audience Choice Award for Best Fiction Feature went to Dear Grandma, Jabi Elortegi’s charming and ultimately moving comedy about a stranger in a strange land, ancestral pride and a grandmother who, after recovering from a comatose state, will now only speak in Basque.

Here is look at the trailer for this winner…

The Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary went to the Puerto Rican documentary Stewards of the Land, JuanMa Pagán Teitelbaum’s verite-style portrait of three young farmers in Puerto Rico who struggle against all odds to bring back the island’s agricultural economy. Venezuelan director Mikel Garrido Linares won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short for We Have Homeland, his devastating portrait of survival under Maduro’s regime.

The Chicago Latino Film Festival, held April 13th-April 23rd, presented 51 features and 35 shorts from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the United States in three venues throughout the city: AMC River East 21 Theaters, 322 E. Illinois St.; Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio St.; and the Landmark Century Center, 2828 N. Clark St. The 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival also produced two events in partnership with the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center: a panel discussion on Saturday April 15th with The Fishbowl director Glorimar Marrero Sánchez, Salvadorean director Brenda Vanegas (The Fishes Within) and Afro-Colombian actress Dayana Bermúdez (The Exile of the Sea) about their experiences behind and in front the camera; and a lecture with master percussionist John Santos (subject of the documentary Santos – Skin to Skin) titled Sounds of Resistance: An Overview of the Evolution of Puerto Rican Music on Friday, April 21st.

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. 

“These winners and runner-ups touched our audiences in so many different ways. They introduced them to characters that struggled with and defended their identity, characters who were determined to live their lives on their own terms, characters who did the right thing or who even acted out of desperation. And they also confronted our audiences with some ugly historical truths. Our audiences embraced these stories with passion and empathy. What more could one ask of a film festival!,” 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 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival Audience Choice Awards are:

  • Feature/Winner: Dear Grandma / El vasco (Argentina/Spain; Director: Jabi Elortegi): Forlorn after his girlfriend dumps him and tired of the Basque Country’s non stop rain, Mikel packs his bags and heads to Argentina where a distant uncle he met through Facebook promises him a job in his business. Mikel finds himself in a town founded by Basque emigres whose descendants are far much prouder of being Basque than the Basques themselves. And if this life without prospects wasn’t enough, Mikel now has to pretend to be somebody else when his Grandma Dolores, his uncle’s mom, wakes up from her lethargy after hearing him sing a lullaby in Basque.
  • Second Place: The Fishbowl / La pecera (Puerto Rico/Spain; Director: Glorimar Marrero Sánchez.): One of the few Puerto Rican films to premiere at Sundance, interdisciplinary artist Marrero Sánchez’s feature debut follows ailing artist Noelia who, after learning that her cancer has metastasized, leaves her partner behind in San Juan and moves in with her mother on the island municipality of Vieques. She keeps secret her condition so she can live life on her own terms, including joining in the efforts to document the toxic legacy of the U.S. military exercises in the island.
  • Third Place: Parsley / Perejil (Dominican Republic; Director: Juan María Cabral): Last year’s winner of the Audience Award for Narrative Feature Film at the Miami International Film Festival, Cabal’s (Woodpeckers, The Projectionist) new film takes place during the infamous 1937 massacre of Haitians ordered by Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Marie, a Haitian woman expecting her first child with Dominican husband Frank, is forced into hiding when her village is attacked by the armed forces. She seeks refuge in the mountains, hoping that she will not turn into another victim of this brutal racist attack.
  • Documentary/Winner: Stewards of the Land / Serán las dueñas de la tierra (Puerto Rico; Director: JuanMa Pagán Teitelbaum): Stephanie, Ian and Alfredo are three young farmers who want to grow healthy produce for an island that imports most of its food, including fruits and vegetables. The farms they rent have been abandoned for decades. Their plans to rebuild these lands from the ground up are made that much more difficult by the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and María. Pagán Tetelbaum shows the protagonist’s grit as they attempt to carve out a living without land ownership or capital.
  • Second Place: The Silence of the Mole / El silencio del topo (Guatemala; Director: Anaïs Taracena): Guatemala’s official selection for Best International Feature at the 95th Academy Awards, Anaïs Taracena’s documentary tells the daring story of journalist Elías Barahona, El topo, who in the 1970s infiltrated General Romeo García’s dictatorship posing as a press officer for the Ministry of the Interior. As such, he was able to retrieve and release information about human rights abuses even as his closest friends were convinced that he was a traitor.
  • Third Place: Eami (Paraguay/Argentina/Mexico/Germany/France/Netherlands/United States); Director: Paz Encina): Winner of the Tiger Award at the 2022 Rotterdam International Film Festival and Paraguay’s official selection for the Academy Award for Best International Feature, Paz Encina’s sensorial documentary hybrid reveals the impact of deforestation over Paraguay’s Ayoreo Totobiegosode native people through their own mythology. The Asojá, the bird-god-woman, takes the form of 5-year-old Eami, who is in a trance after her village is destroyed. Her memories are the only way to keep her people alive.
  • Shorts/Winner: We Have Homeland / Tenemos patria (Venezuela; Director: Mikel Garrido Linares): During a national blackout in Venezuela, Chalia prematurely gives birth to her daughter. Her desperate father, Carlos, will do everything in his power to get a generator in order to power the incubator that would keep his newborn daughter alive.
  • Second Place: Agustina (México; Director: Luciana Herrera Caso): Agustina is a girl with a great imagination. When she discovers that the trip to the moon that her teacher had promised her is only imaginary, she becomes devastated. A conflict develops in her country and Agustina has to find her own way to face reality.
  • Third Place: Karina’s Suit / El traje de Karina (Colombia; Director: Frank Benítez Peña): Muete, an armed group renegade, travels to the city to visit his cousin Leonardo who has now transformed himself into Karina, a woman who works as a prostitute. Muete tries to convince her to return to their town because her mother is very ill, but there’s one condition: Karina has to go as Leonardo.

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