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Latino fest debuts

U.S. preem of 'Juliette' opens L.A. event

The first Los Angeles Intl. Latino Film Festival opens Wednesday with the U.S. premiere of “Who the Hell Is Juliette?” (review, page 12). The Carlos Marcovich film, based on a true story, chronicles a Cuban teenager’s and a Mexican model’s search for their respective fathers.

An ambitious five-day event, the fest features more than 50 contemporary and classic films produced in the U.S. and South and Central America. Edward James Olmos launched the venture, and serves as artistic director. Don Guerrero is the general manager. Screenings are at Universal City Cinemas and Universal Studios.

Despite the strong Hispanic presence in the United States, Latin cinema has had no more than token support commercially. For decades, films from Mexico played in specialized movie houses in L.A., New York and other enclaves in Texas, Florida and the Southwest. An occasional film would cross over into arthouse exhibition, most notably “Like Water for Chocolate” and Argentina’s “The Official Story” — the only South American film to win the Oscar in the foreign-language category. However, the rich tradition of movies from Brazil, Argentina and Chile and emerging work from Peru and Venezuela was largely unknown.

Thursday’s screening schedule includes programs of recent features from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. Among the selections are past Oscar submissions “La Frontera” (Chile) and “Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman” (Mexico), and recent successes on the fest circuit, including “Moebeus” (Argentina) and “Historias de Futbol” (Chile).

Friday’s focus is on shorts, documentaries and a 10th anniversary screening of “La Bamba.”

Dual tribute

Saturday includes a tribute to director Emilio Fernandez and cameraman Gabriel Figueroa, a Puerto Rican film focus and music-themed “Cachao,” directed by Andy Garcia, and “Gardel: Echos of Silence,” from Uruguay. Closing day features Mexican classics from Luis Bunuel, two of the great Cuban films — “Memories of Underdevelopment” and “Lucia” — and the closing night premiere of Arturo Ripstein’s “Deep Crimson.”

For more information, call (213) 852-1525.

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