‘World’ wows Latino fest

'Wonderful' turnout at LALIFF

The 10th L.A. Latino Intl. Film Festival wrapped Sunday with Luis Estrada’s Mexican satire “Un Mundo Maravilloso” (A Wonderful World) taking home the Rita Award for best film.

Pic’s Damian Alcazar won the actor prize.

The 10-day LALIFF was a staging ground for various surprise events, including a sneak preview of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Babel” and a talk with John Singleton, who showed clips of his first Latino-themed production, “Illegal Tender,” with helmer Franc Reyes and lead actress Wanda de Jesus in attendance.

Toronto People’s Choice awardrecipient “Bella,” by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, opened the fest Oct. 5, while Lionsgate’s upcoming “Pretendiendo” closed the fest on a crowdpleasing note. Leads Barbara Mori and Marcelo Mazzarello joined Chilean tyro helmer Claudio Dabed in presenting the pic.

Other awards were evenly spread, with Cuba’s Humberto Solas nabbing the director award for his drama “Barrio Cuba,” while the screenplay nod went to Argentina’s Tristan Bauer for his Falklands War drama “Iluminados por el fuego.” Spain’s Alberto Rodriguez won the Opera Prima (debut feature) award for his coming-of-age pic “Siete virgenes” (Seven Virgins). Argentine Marcos Carnevale’s “Elsa y Fred” took home the audience award.

Mexican helmers dominated docu honors, with Juan Carlos Rulfo picking up yet another award for his harrowing doc “En el Hoyo” (In the Pit). Tin Dirdamal snagged the jury docu award for his immigrant account “De Nadie” (No One).

Festival was co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Marlene Dermer.

“I think we’ve turned a corner,” said Dermer, alluding to the various hard-won battles the fest had to fight to get its roster. “This is the first time we’ve presented so many premieres.”

Attendance was up, per fest organizers, and more high-profile side events made the festival more interesting than past editions. These included a panel sponsored by NBC U’s bilingual web Mun2 that presented musicvideo helmers who shared their views on crossing over to feature films. The Screen Actors Guild hosted a panel on diversity in casting, and Brazilian producer Deborah Calla moderated a panel on Brazilian cinema that included UCLA’s Randal Johnson and Brazilian helmer Caca Diegues.

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