Facets Cinémathèque

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February 26–March 3, 2016

Chicago Premiere

The Vanished Elephant
(El Elefante Desaparecido)

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Film still: The Vanished Elephant
"This puzzling whodunnit gets steadily more intriguing as it morphs into a mind-bending who-am-I... It weaves a spell so mesmerizing words don't do it justice anyway"
  —Los Angeles Daily News
"This picturesque whodunit fuses police procedural drama with elements of art house and Hollywood noir, while also paying tribute to Latin American writers such as Jorge Luis Borges"
  —Chicago Reader

It has been seven years since Peruvian crime novelist Edo Celeste's fiancée Celia vanished without a trace. On the anniversary of her disappearance, as Celeste (Salvador del Solar) is finishing what is to be the last of his popular Felipe Aranda detective novels, the writer receives a summons from Mara (Angie Cepeda), whose ex-husband perished the same day that Celia went missing. Mara gives Celeste an envelope containing photographs that Celeste quickly realizes provide a long-sought-after clue as to the whereabouts of his lost love.

Fusing the chaos of Lima's city streets and the stark reality of its economic disparity with the atmospheric trappings of the Hollywood noir, Javier Fuentes-León's enigmatic second feature The Vanished Elephant is an invigoratingly original whodunit steeped in a distinctly Latin American literary tradition. Paying homage to such writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Roberto Bolano, Fuentes-León transforms his detective story into a meditation on the mystery of artistic creation. As the obsessed author embarks on a quest that takes him from Lima to the outlying beaches of Paracas, literary and real-life mysteries seem to become even more intertwined, leading us to wonder where fiction ends and fact begins, or if the fiction actually ends at all.

Taking its title from the Elephant of Mendieta, a rock formation that was swallowed up by the ocean during Peru's 2007 earthquake, The Vanished Elephant uses the framework of a criminal procedural to craft a fascinating reflection on art, obsession, and loss.

Directed by Javier Fuentes-León, 2014, Peru/Colombia/Spain, 109 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles.


  • Fri., Feb. 26 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Feb. 27 at 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Feb. 28 at 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Feb. 29–Mar. 3 at 7 & 9 pm
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$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation