The Ten Most Fun Days of the Year

Film, friends, deals and taco de ojo highlight this year's LALIFF

By Alex Mendoza
Published on LatinoLA: July 30, 2002

The Ten Most Fun Days of the Year

Here I am, Monday, nursing an excitement and fun withdrawal syndrome. I have a dull and pervasive feeling of missing out on something, facing a normal (quite often, boring) life. Yesterday night the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival came to a close after ten days of films, networking, partying and fun.

I now have confirmed that these are, without a doubt, the most fun ten days the year has in store. Starting with a plethora of outstandingly good films, coupled with the best opportunity to talk with old friends as well as to make a bunch of new ones. Add the better than ever business opportunities, and you have enough reasons to withstand the crazy pace you will be running under for ten consecutive days.

On top of that, add the parties, with their outstanding music, food and drinks, and the incredible "taco de ojo" available (for the uninitiated, "taco de ojo" is what you have when you find yourself surrounded by beautiful women). There were sooooo many of them, starting with the incredibly helpful, hard-working and committed volunteers, that this year were allowed to redesign their fest T-shirts to their liking, with amazing results!

I assume that there was also enough "taco de ojo" for female attendants, but I was not losing time in paying attention to what the macho population was offering.

The opportunity to mingle with the best Latino filmmakers is invaluable. The networking is furious and exciting, new business opportunities are there for the taking. I saw and/or meet acquisitions executives from most of the studios and large independents. Also, I initiated, refreshed or reinvigorated many business relationships with filmmakers, distributors and executives. This year seemed that more business was being done than in previous years.

Personally I did very well in that aspect, better than expected.

It all started on Friday, July 19, with the opening film "Juana La Loca" and the outstanding party afterwards. It continued day after day with a great selection of films done by the fest's Executive Director, Marlene Dermer, the long chats in the Filmmakers Cafe (that this year worked not only as a place to go to have a quiet meeting, but with its adjacent bar, turned out to be the "place-to-be") and the mandatory drinks or dinners afterwards.

This time I saw only 12 features and only a couple of documentaries and shorts. This was not my intention since I expected to see more than that, but so many of the screenings were sold out and sometimes I was too late to get a seat. Of course, the fact that were so many sold-out screenings must have Eddie Olmos very proud and satisfied.

Eddie and Marlene put together what seemed their best Festival. Every one of the recurring attendants pointed out how this time the organization seemed smoother than ever. The very much appreciated staff and volunteers made it look like they have the show down to a science and that they can put it all together without any major hitch. The filmmakers all seemed very proud, honored and happy of being at the Fest. The VIP guests were all very active in networking and the paid audience seemed to be only unhappy when they were told that the screening they wanted to see was already sold-out.

Meeting master filmmakers like Humberto Solas (Audience Award for "Miel Para Ochun"), Nelson Pereira (recipient of the Gabi Lifetime Achievement Award), Bruno Barretto (who showed up to celebrate Nelson Pereira) and so many new talent like Rodrigo Grande (Prima Obra Award for "Rosarigasinos") and Miguel Barreda (director of "Si Te Vi, No Me Acuerdo", my personal favorite film from those I was able to catch) was an inspiring opportunity that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

But again, what may be the best thing I got out the Fest was the opportunity to meet old friends. (It seems that we are limited to see each other ONLY at the fest!) Michael, Julio, David, Luca, Michel, Patricia, Phil, Ivan, Sandra, Sarah, Santiago, Jose, Luis, Jeff, Pedro, Marina, Rigel, Margarita, Teri, Benjamin, Peter, Deborah, Maria, George, Sal, Jose Luis, my favorite two, Dyana and Lupe, and so many more with whom I always love to chat with. On top of that, all the new friends make this one of the most rewarding
experiences. Special mention to my new soul sister, Christina, and all the other new friends, Mina, Iran, Maria, Cesar, Mariela, Sandy, Rodrigo, Miguel, Marcel, Humberto and so many more, that to list them all will be an abuse of your time.

So if you were there, even if for only one screening, you will agree with me that this has been the best Fest ever. If you did not go at all ... shame on you, AND IN YOUR CRIME YOU CARRY YOUR PUNISHMENT, you are the one missing it.

Me? I am already clearing my calendar for the next year's Fest.

Eddie and Marlene, I know this is much to ask, but can you do this at least twice a year? Twelve months is just to long to wait for THE MUST FUN 10 DAYS OF THE YEAR! Muchas Gracias a los dos de ustedes y a todos aquellos que trabajan o donan su tiempo en preparar este tan estupendo, divertido y exitoso evento.

About Alex Mendoza:
Alex Mendoza is principal of Alex Mendoza & Asso., an entertainment distribution consulting firm at http://hometown.aol.com//alexmend/AMAHomePage.html

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