The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival wrapped up its fifth year with a tribute Saturday night to the late actor Anthony Quinn, followed by Sunday evening's awards ceremony at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater.
Organizers estimated attendance ofat 30,000 during the 10-day event, marked by almost daily protests against actor Edward James Olmos, the festival's producer and artistic director. The demonstrators, who object to Olmos' participation in films they consider anti-Mexican, were out in force Sunday night, loudly chanting on the sidewalk as celebrities and moviegoers arrived for the closing ceremonies.
The noisy but orderly protest did not disrupt the festival's red-carpet ritual down the long courtyard, however. Once inside the restored movie house, the capacity audience could not hear the cries of "coward" and "traitor" as an unruffled Olmos helped hand out the festival's prizes, awarded by juries in six categories.
The honor for best picture went to Spain's "El cielo abierto" ("Ten Days Without Love""), directed by Miguel Albaladejo. It's the story of a psychiatrist whose wife leaves him without warning that her mother is coming to visit.
Albaladejo's screenplay tied for best script with Francisco Lombardi's "Tinta roja" ("Red Ink"), a Peruvian film about an idealistic writer who interns on the crime desk of a major tabloid in Lima.
Arturo Ripstein of Mexico was on hand to receive the award as this year's best director for "La perdicion de los hombres" ("The Ruination of Man"), a black comedy about two women who fight over the corpse of a man whose downfall in life was the opposite sex ... and baseball.
"I would like to say, 'You love me, you love me,' but I think that's patented," joked Ripstein after being introduced by veteran Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz Jr.
Another Mexican director, Juan Carlos de Llaca, won a special mention for "Por la libre" ("Dust to Dust"), a comedy about two cousins who are complete opposites but who bond to carry out their grandfather's dying wish.
"Strong Roots," a look inside Brazil's landless movement, was selected as best documentary. "The Test," a hometown production by students from Heart of Los Angeles, a program for youth from the Rampart district, tied for best U.S. short film. Winners were selected from among 110 documentaries, shorts and feature films shown this year on three screens at two venues, the Egyptian and Vogue theaters. Festival founders said the diverse entries from 13 countries reflect the improving quantity and quality of new cinema coming from Latin America and Spain, though most will never be screened again in the U.S.nited States.
"They say that there's no market for these kinds of movies, but I think they're mistaken," said Olmos, pleased with the festival's growing reputation and attendance.
Olmos declined to respond to protesters from the Mexica Movement, an indigenous rights group based in East Los Angeles. For more than a year, the group has dogged the actor for his speaking role in Disney's animated "The Road to El Dorado," a film they sayclaim negatively portrays indigenous characters. A fliyer shows pictures of Olmos from last year's festival as he met with picketers holding signs calling him racist.
"All he said [at the time] was that we have to learn to laugh at ourselves, as if the world doesn't laugh at us already," said protest spokesman Itzcoatl Xochipilli.
Olmos said protesters annoyed some people as they arrived for various events. "But they didn't bother me," he added, as fans filed into the courtyard for food and dancing after watching the U.S. premiere of the gut-wrenching "Perfume de violetas" ("Scent of Violets"), a film thatwhich turns a scorching spotlight on the growing violence against women in Mexico.
Based on a true story about the rape of a teenage girl and its tragic repercussions, the film has been a commercial and critical hit in Mexico. It's subtitled "Nadie te oye" ("Nobody Hears You"), because the troubled victim has no one to turn to for help.
"I wanted to establish a dialogue about this problem in society," said director Maryse Sistach after the screening. "I think we've achieved our objective, for people to talk about a topic which has been taboo."