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Chicago Film Festival: 10 Capsules

10/24/2019, 11:17 p.m.

ALELI

Director: Leticia Jorge Romero

Uruguay/Argentina

How does a family rearrange itself when a parent dies? When it’s mom who survives, will any of her three adult children have room for her? How does the group power shift: Is she still the matriarch, or does her place in the family change to one more like that of her children or grandchildren? How will the alliances among the children — big brother, Ernesto; stable, married Lillian, free-spirit, yoga teacher Noelia — realign? These are the questions Ms. Romero considers in her sunny blackish comedy revolving around the family selling their beach house to a developer who plans to divide the land into smaller plots and market six cottages. Though sometimes dysfunctional, the bonds among them are strong. Dealing with the unpleasant neighbor next door reminds them all of how close they really are and what fun they are capable of sharing.

LITIGANTE

Director: Franco Lolli

Colombia/France

Silvia is an attorney, the single mother of a young son, a sister and the elder daughter of an overbearing mother who is dying of cancer. It’s an exhausting menu to juggle; Silvia does it with creativity, love and grace. After giving a whistleblower radio interview about corruption in her government job, she leaves the job and has to consider what she will be able to do next. Developing a new romance becomes, simultaneously, a new stress and a respite from the usual ones. As mom’s cancer progresses and she declines, it becomes harder and harder for her to hold on to her personhood, as well as her position in the family. Everyone tries to do their best and be their kindest. Silvia’s son is a ray of light.

MATERNAL

Director: Maura Delpero

Italy/Argentina

Sister Paola, a young novitiate preparing to take her final vows, works in a Buenos Aires shelter for teen mothers. She becomes especially close with Fatima, the mother of Antonio, who is pregnant with her second child. Fatima shares a room and child care with Lu, mother of a young daughter, who needs more adrenaline than the home provides. Sister Paola develops a particularly strong bond with Lu’s little girl. When Lu runs off, the abandoned little girl suffers much so that Sister Paola becomes her surrogate mother, even sneaking her into her room to sleep at night. Which vocation will win, the call of the Church or that of motherhood?

The HYPNOTIST

Director: Arthur Franck

Finland

Was Jesus a hypnotist? Olavi Hakasolo, a.k.a. Oliver Hawk (1930-1988), Finland’s most famous hypnotist, thought he was. The documentary is a counterpoint of a trial (in 1980, for medical malpractice) interspersed with vignettes of his unorthodox career. Like Jesus, he came to his calling at a young age and spent years perfecting his art abroad. In addition to large group performances, he had a clinic where he treated physical and psychological ailments in humans and animals. His development of consciousness sound waves was allegedly used to calm riots in Japan. Some say he worked for the government and that his powers helped President Kevela Kekkonen stay in power for 26 years. He died on stage during a performance, but Painter Boris Mikojan insisted he saw Hawk at Kemi Airport after his death. (In 2000, Hawk was featured in Donald Duck magazine as a cartoon character, Oliver Houkka.)