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Buoyant ‘Bella’ bow

Toronto favorite premieres in D.C.

WASHINGTON — Looking around the Mexican Cultural Center in D.C., where several hundred people sipped margaritas or danced to a mariachi band on Saturday night, a buoyant Eduardo Verastegui said: “With the food, music and even the paintings, they bring Mexico to this room. What better environment to show a film?”

Especially if the movie is “Bella,” the first outing for Metanoia Films, featuring Verastegui, who also produced. Pic took home the Toronto fest’s people’s choice award and has since been stirring auds for its unusual portrait of Latino culture.

“This movie depicts the culture but also transcends it,” said Pilar O’Leary, exec director of the Smithsonian Institute’s Latino Center. “It has universal appeal.”

Which is why the Latino Center is presenting Verastegui and helmer Alejandro Monteverde with its award for emerging talent.

Pic doesn’t see release until August, but because of the increasing buzz, the Mexican Embassy wanted to sponsor a private screening as part of its Cinco de Mayo bash.

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