Pedro Costa’s haunting ‘Vitalina Varela’ is the centerpiece of Locarno in Los Angeles


The 61-year-old Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa makes movies that transport you to another place — namely, Fontainhas, the impoverished Lisbon shantytown whose run-down homes and narrow alleys become a place of shadowy, spectral beauty in films like “In Vanda’s Room,” “Colossal Youth” and “Horse Money.” It is the setting of Costa’s latest work, “Vitalina Varela,” a slow-building, haunting portrait of a woman who has returned to Lisbon from Cape Verde to bury the husband who abandoned her years earlier.

Both distancing and powerfully immersive, “Vitalina Varela,” which won the top prize at last year’s Locarno Film Festival and recently screened at Sundance, will open in March. But you can see it earlier, and with Costa in attendance, at the centerpiece screening (Feb. 15, 8 p.m.) of this year’s Locarno in Los Angeles satellite event at the Downtown Independent. Other titles in the program include “A Girl Missing” (Feb. 14, 8 p.m.), from the Japanese director Kôji Fukada; “A Voluntary Year” (Feb. 15, 2:30 p.m.), from Germany’s Ulrich Köhler and Henner Winckler; and “Endless Night” (Feb. 15, 5 p.m.), from the Galician filmmaker Eloy Enciso.

Locarno in Los Angeles

When: Feb. 13-16

Where: Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., Los Angeles

Tickets: $12 ($90 and $45 ticket packages available)