?It?s because we?re hungry for it!? exclaimed Myrna Gutierrez referring to the quality cinema she has been experiencing throughout LALIFF, the 6th Annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Her emotions were exposed during the question and answer session that took place after the screening of the film ?Sin Verg?enza.?
Daniel Jim?nez Cacho, lead actor in the film, prompted her expression: He had just commented on the difference between how Spanish audiences and the homegrown Los Angeles audience received the film. ?Here, people seemed much more open with their reactions to the movie, they clapped, they laughed out loud, they screamed,? said Jim?nez Cacho?and Gutierrez knew exactly why. The general attitude of first-time LALIFF-goers mirrors hers.
?When you go see a Hollywood blockbuster movie, it?s mainly to take your mind off things.? says Dennis Perez, who saw his very first LALIFF movie on the third day of the festival. ?But independent projects like this one have more interesting stories, they make you think, and you learn something from them.?
Perez saw the documentary "La Tropical" from Cuba, which documents the story of the present day island through various working-class Cubans that visit the famous La Tropical nightclub. ?It gave me an insight to Cuba, it touched on many social issues, and it opened my feeble mind.?
The more than 100 films in this year?s festival do expose audiences to a diverse array of stories: about dreams, about struggles, about memories?about real life.
Carmen Campos was, in her own words, fascinated with the movie "La Fuga". This Argentinean movie told the story of several inmates who escape the National Penitentiary in Buenos Aires in 1928 and the separate routes they each took. ?The movie had twists and turns and it touched on a lot of themes, such as redemption, love, and vengeance,? Campos said. ?It was very realistic, not like the Hollywood fairytale-type stories.?
LALIFF?s mission is to promote awareness of the richness and diversity of our cultures, our people and our countries through film. Judging from Campos? response to "La Fuga", the mission is being accomplished. ?Watching these movies, we learn about other cultures, about their way of thinking and telling stories.?
The consensus among first-time attendees was that festival films were not just Latino films; they were also high quality films. ?I?m proud that this festival is celebrating its 6th anniversary,? explains Campos. ?It ?s important to showcase films about us to audiences worldwide, so they can learn about us and see that we too can make good movies, and even more so in the United States, the biggest melting pot in the world.?
Rosalba Ruiz is a LatinoLA correspondent. She attended her first LALIFF festival in the year 2000, and has been in love with the film festival ever since.