CHICAGO (CBS) — Stories from Latin America, the United States, Spain and Portugal will be showcased at this year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival, opening Thursday night with the Chicago premier of Yuli, the story of acclaimed Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta.

The films will be screened at the AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois Street. According to the festival, more than 600 entries were submitted for the anticipated event but only 63 feature length films and 40 shorts will be presented. They also include documentaries and animated selections.

 

“We are particularly proud of our selection of films addressing the Afro-Latino experience throughout the Americas; and our documentary section is the strongest one in years. We invite everyone to join us in this cinematic feast,” said Pepe Vargas, founder and executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center, producer of the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

One of the festival’s initiative is to introduce films from Latin America to students throughout the Chicago area. The festival’s Matinee Outreach Program started out attracting 1,000 students and today more than 5,000 are able to attend the festival for free.

Thursday’s screening of Yuli is sold out but it will be presented again on Saturday March 30. The Chicago U.S. premier of the Colombian film El Reality will close the Chicago International Film Festival on April 11.

“Icíar’s latest film is both a tribute to a city, Havana, and to an inspiring artist. Yuli is intimate and magnificent, a breathtaking fusion of drama and dance, beautifully shot, and splendidly scored by Alberto Iglesias. Our Opening Night selection encapsulates our core mission as a multidisciplinary institution,” said Vargas.

The festival, in collaboration with the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, will showcase documentaries from Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Filiberto focuses on the life of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a musician described as an “icon, legend, the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitive and martyr to Puerto Rico’s independence movement after being killed by a sniper during an FBI-led raid at his home in the center of the island.” He was commander-in-chief of the Boricua Popular Army “Los Macheteros” and considered a pivotal figure in Puerto Rico’s recent political history.

Havana From On High is a documentary about seven resilient people who have made homes for themselves on the city’s rooftops in a “secret village. hidden from the clamour of the streets below.” Visit the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center site for more information on dates and times of the screenings.

For a complete list of screenings, dates, times and countries of origin, visit the 35th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival website.