Penelope Cruz, Calle 13 and Diego Luna at LA Latino International Film Festival

Penelope Cruz, Calle 13 and Diego Luna will be among the stars featured in the stellar lineup of films to be presented at the 13th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) opening this Sunday, October 11th at the Mann Chinese 6 Cinemas in Hollywood.  Here are the feature films that will be screened during the 2009 festival:

Directed by Josh Crook
La Soga is a film of such raw energy and ragged beauty that these elements alone would justify its viewing. Beyond this, though, it contains a story both timely and timeless, brutal and elegant, for what is at stake is the redemption of a man’s soul. In a poor neighborhood in Santiago, Dominican Republic, where the streets are run by “boomerang” drug dealers (thugs who have been deported from the United States back to their homeland), a modest butcher struggles to raise his sensitive ten-year-old boy, Luisito (Fantino Fernandez). After witnessing the murder of his father by a vicious New York criminal named Rafa, Luisito meets General Colon (Juan Fernandez), head of the Dominican secret police. Colon preys on the boy’s desire for revenge, transforming him into a heartless killer. Twenty years later, Luisito (Manny Perez) has risen to become Colon’s top assassin, perpetually kept in control by the general’s promise to deliver his father’’s killer, who has fled to New York. Into Luisito’s emotionally hollow world comes Jenny (Denise Quiñones), a childhood sweetheart. Unaware of his occupation, Jenny falls again for Luisito, and the tenderness she shows him rekindles his dormant conscience. As his eyes begin to open to the corruption around him, he struggles to cope with the actions of both his past and present. Recrimination, guilt and fury bubble up until he is forced to risk his life in order to alter its path.
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 5:00pm

Directed by Marcos Carnevale
Anita has all, or nearly all, the features of Down children, affected by this condition the incidence of which is roughly estimated at 1 per 800 to 1,000 births. Anita lives a happy life, lovingly cared for by her mother (Norma Aleandro), who runs a small stationery store in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood known as “Once,” once mostly populated by shopowners of Jewish origin. Feldman, that’s Anita’s last name, but she doesn’t know it because of her limited cognitive abilities. Feldmans, like many other Jewish community members, live around the area, and the AMIA is where most of their social, medical care and other paperwork are handled. A morning or afternoon brief run to the AMIA is nothing out of the ordinary for them. When Anita’s mother goes to the AMIA to cash a subsidy check for her child with Down syndrome, she tells the infant: “It’s a quarter to 3. When the big hand on that clock reaches the top, mom will be back.” Mom is gone, never to return.
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 7:15pm

Directed by Toshifumi Matsushita
In the Salar de Uyuni, there is a 13 year-old boy, Kunturi, who lives a life much like any other boy in his village. But when his grandmother dies and his best friend moves away, he decides to embark on a trip with the llama caravan. For three months, he travels throughout the “Ruta de la Sal,” exchanging salt for other Andes products, reluctantly bearing witness to an animal sacrifice in the snow-covered peaks and interacting with the indigenous cultures seemingly untouched by modernity. But when the caravan arrives at its destination, the town of Macha where the “Tinku” Festival is taking place, Kunturi’s life will be changed forever. There he finds the most beautiful girl he could have ever imagined, Ulala. Kunturi and Ulala share the same dream: “to run together across the immense white sea that is the Salar de Uyuni, until they reach the end of the horizon.
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 7:25pm

Directed by Roberto Artiagoitía
Grade 3 is a sexy, funny and brazen comedy that recreates from humor the romantic and sexual encounters of five couples. Every story is a story in and of itself, where it is possible to find the most different realities of romantic encounters between chilean people: a gay man and his friend in the funny story “The Friends”. A young married couple who see their relationship worn away in “The Marriage”. Three students looking for new experiences in “Shared Apartment”. An ex couple who has an encounter in the story “The ex”, and the story of a funny grandfather who decides to celebrate his birthday with a young and atractive woman, in “The Birthday”.
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 9:35pm

Directed by Sebastian Silva
The Maid is the touching story of how a maid called Raquel, who has worked for over 20 years in one affluent Chilean household, rediscovers herself. Silva sets the drama almost entirely in the house, focusing on Saavedra’s passive face as she resists the family’s attempts to bring in an assistant maid before finally accepting the friendship of a spunky new workmate called Lucy.
Screening Time: Wednesday October 14 @ 7:20pm

Directed by Juan Carlos
Tabío In 18th cent., a group of Castiñeiras nuns deposited treasure in a British bank. Buoyed by the promise of wealth, Castiñeiras descendents throughout Cuba band together to try to prove their eligibility as legitimate heirs. A wonderfully crafted comedy that reflects on the socio-economic difficulties of contemporary Cuba with corrosive wit.
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 5:00pm

Directed by Jorge Ramírez-Suárez
Carlos looks forward to it but Susana does not. Joel does not want it but Patricia forces him. Gabriel waits for it but Martha does not give it to him. Amado looks for it with an American woman and looses it. Benito has it all his life. Concha takes it with her beyond the solar system. All of them want to have it and all of them give it but some get it and some do not and some want more. That is loving.
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 9:35pm

Directed by Fernando Lebrija
Mexico City, the present: Alejandro Vizcaino is the sole heir to the assets of Vizcaino Incorporated, a vast banking empire built by his father Ricardo. But Alejandro’s father is oppressively controlling, his business practices and his cronies are highly corrupt. When Alejandro can take no more, he, in an act of rebellion, drag-races along a Mexico City street. A terrible accident happens, one that shakes him to the core, one that makes him realize he must escape the world into which he was born. Risking the loss of an unimaginable inheritance, Alejandro flees down a Mexican highway, takes a wrong turn, and is stranded in a poor, remote, beachside community where nomadic surfers go to surf. It’s there he sees Rosa, a local girl, beautiful as an exotic rose, who rides by on a bike and disappears into the night as suddenly as she first appeared. For Alejandro, it is an inexplicable, ineffable love at first sight. But it will be a love for which Alejandro will have to fight, and fight hard, for Rosa lives under the controlling grip of El Tigre, the local drug lord who is feared in all the town. Alejandro plots Rosa’s escape, and together they take flight in a race for their lives, as El Tigre follows in mad pursuit. They feel no fear, for whatever happens, theirs, they know, is a lifetime love that will be to the death, amar a morir.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 9:25pm

Directed by Mariana Chenillo
Before dying, Nora devises a plan to make José, ex-husband, take care of her funeral. But she misses something – the only flaw in the plan, a mysterious photograph left under the bed, will lead to an unexpected outcome that will remind us that sometimes the greatest love stories are hidden in the smallest places.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 3:15pm

Directed by Alan Jonsson Gavica
Homing pigeons, drug lords and the Virgin of Guadalupe all come into play in Morenita. Add familial ties and the testing of one’s faith and the result is an extraordinary film. Mateo Cruz, desperate to save his family from a notorious drug dealer, causes absolute pandemonium when he kidnaps Mexico and Latin America’s most adored religious icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe to get money for the ransom.
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 3:00pm

Directed by Alberto Chicho
Durant Alex is having an affair with his cousin Lisbet, a young woman married to a taxi driver who is involved in fraudulent dealings. When Alex and Lisbet are fired from the shop where they work, Alex turns to selling porn films in Lima’s Polvos Azules market. Antonio, who is Alex’s father, wins the lottery and travels to Lima to collect the money and visit the son he has not seen in years. Antonio has no idea how his luck will change the rest of his life.
Screening Time: Wednesday October 14 @ 5:00pm

Directed by Manuel Sicilia and Raul Garcia
The film chronicles the misadventures of a group of animals as they avoid being kidnapped by an unscrupulous hunter hired by a benevolent millionaire, Noah. The eccentric old man, aware of the unstoppable destruction of nature, hatches a secret plan. To help, he recruits Newmann, a cold-blooded hunter. But even the most experienced hunter will face endless problems trying to capture our animal heroes led by Felix, a jinxed lynx who ultimately prevails by commanding a rag tag bunch of brave animals. The hunter and the preys confront each other in this exciting game of survival and unlikely friendship and heroism.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 5:15pm

Directed by Chus Gutiérrez
Martín, in his forties, is the owner of a funeral parlor in Algeciras. Recently separated from his wife and with a daughter of 12, he runs a recently created business with countless economic and legal problems. The Civil Guard tells him that there’s been a shipwreck and there are so many dead that the local undertakers don’t have anywhere to put them. Martín says he’ll go there but first asks who’ll pay the expenses. The Civil Guard says that’s not his concern. When they’re collecting the bodies on the beach, Antonio, Martín’s assistant, notices that one of them has his fist clenched, as if he were clinging to something. When he opens it, he finds a piece of paper with a phone number. Back in his office, Martín dials the number. Leila, a Moroccan woman, answers. After the initial impact of the news of her brother’s death, Leila decides to repatriate his body. She feels responsible. After all, it was she who sent him the money to make the journey, against their parents’ opinion. Now the problem is to find the money she needs to take her brother home.
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 9:20pm

Directed by Nicolas Lopez Salvador
Santos (obese, balding and almost 33 years old) does not seem the likely person to dress up as a superhero. But he doesn’t have any other choice, especially since a strange interdimensional traveler has warned him that his best friend, the handsome multi-millionaire Arturo Antares, is Nova, a tyrant from another dimension, who has been hiding for years in Arturo’s body. Nova, could make both universes implode and Salvador will have to stop him… even if he doesn’t want to. After much resistance Salvador will accept training and he will discover that years of drawing and reading comics have not been in vain. Especially if by being a superhero he will be able to rescue the love of his life from the hands of Nova.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 11:20pm

Directed by Agustín Díaz
Yanes Aurora is serving a prison sentence for a robbery that went wrong. Her accomplices are outside; Ana, her sister, Gloria and Paloma; Four women for whom so far life has not been easy. Ana is a prostitute who likes money. That’s why she accepts the marriage proposal of Felix, a dangerous and powerful Mexican drug trafficker who falls for her. She moves with him to live in Mexico. Gloria receives a phone call from Mexico City; it’s Ana. She wants her friend to visit her. Her husband’s business dealings are very lucrative and she has been thinking; there’s work to be done. Aurora finishes her stretch in jail and Paloma goes to collect her; they have a flight to catch; Madrid to Mexico; Ana and Gloria are waiting. From her golden cage, between the alcohol and her husband’s beatings, Ana has designed a dangerous plan to hit back at Felix and his gang. A double strike: money and revenge, and for this reason she has called on her friends’ help. Together the four women are ready for their lucky strike!
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 9:30pm

Directed by Adrian Biniez
A supermarket security guard forms powerful fixation on the pretty cleaning woman who scrubs the aisles during the graveyard shift in this deeply personal tale of obsession and voyeurism from first time feature filmmaker Adrian Biniez. When the sun goes down, Jara (Horacio Camandule) clocks in to monitor the security cameras at a suburban Montevideo supermarket. The job can be pretty dull at times, so in order to keep himself occupied Jara often passes the time watching videos, doing crossword puzzles, and playing music. One night, as Jara glances at the monitors, pretty cleaning woman Julia (Leonor Svarcas) wanders into frame and the portly security guard is immediately transfixed. With each passing day, Jara’s fixation on Julia grows stronger, to the point where he eventually begins following her outside of work as well. Before long, Jara’s entire life is centered on Julia’s daily routine; he watches as she lounges on the beach, goes to a movie, and even as she meets with another man. When rumors of layoffs begin circulating around the supermarket and Jara discovers that Julia is one of the workers about to be handed her walking papers, the smitten security guard must choose between letting go of his obsession and laying bare his suppressed feelings for the object of his affections, or remaining silent and letting his one chance at happiness slip away.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 7:05pm

Directed by Pablo Proenza
Dark Mirror is a supernatural thriller about a beautiful Latina photographer named Deborah. When she and her family move into a strange old house, her happy life is turned upside down. First, Deborah sees things – horrible visions, a hooded stalker — that make her increasingly paranoid and housebound. She changes from confident professional woman into obsessed housewife. She even becomes frightened of her own camera. Every time she takes pictures of people, they disappear. One day, in a fit of anger, Deborah decides to use this power against someone; she photographs her sexy neighbor flirting with her husband. And it works! Her neighbor disappears. But Deborah realizes to her horror… she’s also taken pictures of her own husband and son.
Screening Time: Wednesday October 14 @ 11:45pm

Directed by Cruz Angeles
At the center of Cruz Angeles’s compelling first feature are Lalo (E.J. Bonilla) and Stefanie (Gleendilys Inoa), two high school kids living in Brooklyn. Lalo comes from a Mexican immigrant family that struggles financially. His father (Damian Alcázar), formerly a janitor at the World Trade Center, now works at Ground Zero cleaning up debris while his mother (Yareli Arizmendi) tries to hold the family together, her father (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) is overwhelmed by the loss and cannot control his anger. In the midst of their family turmoil and exactly one mont after the WTC attacks, Lalo and Stefanie meet at a birthday party, and although they start off on the wrong foot, the ice melts, and their budding friendship becomes a clandestine romance. Don’t Let Me Drown features an elegantly poignant story, layered characters and standout performances. The tectures of the city and the lives of the families are shaded with a wistful sense of struggle but the heart of the film is a refreshing and honest love story.
Screening Time: Wednesday October 14 @ 9:30pm

Directed by Alan Jacobs
Based on a New York Times article, Down For Life depicts a fateful day in the life of a 15-year-old Latina gang leader ‘Rascal’, beautifully portrayed by first-time actor Jessica Romero. Leaving the gang, Rascal discovers, is much more difficult than joining. Her situation is further complicated by racial tensions between her Latina gang and a rival black girl gang, a frequent problem today in Los Angeles schools. Down For Life presents a raw, authentic look at a teenager’s life in the ghetto. It was filmed entirely on location in Los Angeles, including at Locke High School where the original article and real-life story took place. It stars local youths who, in their first time in front of the camera, deliver powerful performances.
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 7:00pm GRAUMAN’S CHINESE

Directed by George Bessudo
It follows the story of a young couple, Chad and Scarlet, as they leave their old life, and horrifying secrets behind, in search of a fresh start. But when a near-fatal car accident leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, they turn to a mysterious farm couple for shelter. Chad and Scarlet soon realize that this shadowy pair is somehow linked to their past and that the fate of their future is held in unforgiving hands. Chad and Scarlet endure immense torture and heartbreak in an attempt to make amends for their past mistakes. But will they be able to attain salvation, or will it be too little to late?
Screening Time: Thursday October 15 @ 11:45pm

Directed by Peter Bratt
La Mission is a haunting story of healing and transformation: the healing of a broken man, of a father’s relationship with his son, and of a neighborhood struggling to break the chains of violence. Sundance Film Festival veteran Peter Bratt returns with a powerful second feature set in the colorful, seedy streets of the San Francisco district that bears its name. La Mission is a story of redemption imbued with the curative power of Aztec tradition. Feared, yet respected, as the baddest Chicano on the block, Che (Benjamin Bratt), a reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, resorts to violence and intimidation to get what he wants. A bus driver by day, Che lives for his beloved son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), his lifelong friends (Jesse Borrego), and his passion for lowrider cars. Che and the “Mission Boyz” salvage junked cars, transforming them into classics. Che’s macho world is crushed when he discovers that Jesse’s been living a secret life. In a violent rage, Che pummels Jesse and throws him out of the house. Lena (Erika Alexander), an attractive neighbor and a force to be reckoned with, is a woman with a few secrets of her own. Mutual attraction percolates as Lena challenges Che to reconcile the life he thought he had.
Screening Time: Tuesday October 13 @ 7:00pm

Directed by Leon Ichaso
The dull life of Remigio Gallegos, a popular Miami radio personality, will never be the same after he answers a phone call to find out his son is waiting for him at a Miami Immigration office. Ivan, the young “rafter” has never met his father. He brings with him Remigio’s mother silver cross and a haunted past. A post-postmodern hybrid, part thriller, part drama, part existencial romance, Paraiso is a film that eschews stereotypes. Ichaso explores generational as well as class divides within the Cuban exile community seldom addressed in film. Is the American dream possible for those who arrived a little too late? Ichaso avoids didacticism for raw authenticity, to the point of even challenging the very possibility of full integration ever, in a “land with a future” that waits for no one. Shot on a “Cuban coffee budget”, the film explodes with heart, color, music and a desperate tale seldom brought to the screen before. A Miami of no return, where freedom is murder.
Screening Time: Wednesday October 14 @ 7:00pm

Directed by Victor Nunez
Cruz Montoya (Kuno Becker) is a rock star on the West Coast poetry circuit, where audiences from San Diego to Seattle gather to hear him perform. Just off the road from such a tour, he gets an unexpected phone call alerting him that his father, Senior (Rubén Blades), is fatally ill. Cruz rushes home to his dying father, a reclusive former schoolteacher still leading a traditional life in their once bucolic mountain valley, now ravaged by poverty, drug abuse, and violence. Cruz soon retreats to his old life, managing a Santa Fe hip-hop club owned by local crime boss, Emilio (Miguel Sandoval), who Senior used to run with back in the day. Seduced by the fast action and easy money, Cruz loses his poetic voice, his identity, and almost his life, before he finds a way to heal his relationships with his family, his community, and himself. Spoken Word depicts the edgy collision of old and new worlds, and explores how families can move beyond words, both spoken and unspoken, to share the language of their hearts.
Screening Time: Monday October 12 @ 8:50pm


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