Film fiesta brings movies unreleased in U.S.

It started as a project for a graduate student in Oz, where Mexican-born Samuel Douek was earning a master’s degree in event management at U. of Technology, Sydney.

In 2005, Douek had the notion to mount a film festival celebrating new works from his homeland. Although there are only about 2,000 Mexicans in all of Australia, the fest was a success and is now in its seventh year there. But Oz now plays second fiddle to the fest’s younger edition in Los Angeles, which is home to the second-largest concentration of Mexicans outside Mexico City.

Now on its fourth year, the Hola Mexico Film Festival unspools from Thursday through May 30 at the Montalban Theater. It’s touted as the fastest-growing Latino-themed festival in the U.S.

Operating on a shoestring budget of $100,000, the fest’s mandate is to bring in the latest mix of mainstream and auteur pics from Mexico, some of which may never secure U.S. theatrical distribution. The fest allows Mexicans in Los Angeles the chance “to enjoy the same cultural and film experiences that their friends and relatives have had in their native land,” said Douek, who now lives in L.A.

This year’s selection of nine pics and four docus includes the U.S. premiere of Everardo Gout’s acclaimed soccer thriller “Dias de gracia” (Days of Grace), which bowed in Cannes last year, and historic war drama “Cristiada” (For Greater Glory), starring Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Peter O’Toole and Ruben Blades.

Strong docus are also part of the lineup, led by Mexican box office hit “Barely Passing,” which grossed an unprecedented $4 million at the B.O.

Families will be well served with toons “Top Cat,” which is the reigning No. 1 all-time local box office hit in Mexico, and horror/adventure comedy “La leyenda de la llorona.” Tix for these toon screenings will be sold at half price to encourage family attendance, Douek said.

Fest opens with “Dias de gracia” and wraps with Jack Zagha’s dark comedy “Adios mundo Cruel” (Goodbye Cruel World).

Among the notable attendees will be helmer Gout, director and “Dias de gracia” star Tenoch Huerta, along with “Barely Passing” director Juan Carlos Rulfo.

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