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L.A. Latino International Film Festival returns after year's absence

When the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival canceled its annual showcase last fall, some local cinephiles feared that its 15th edition in 2011 might've been its last.

But the festival, one of the country's largest for Spanish- and Portuguese-language films, has rebounded this year, albeit in a more condensed version than in  times past. Its 16th edition will open a five-day run tonight with a screening at the El Capitan in Hollywood of Brazilian director Richard Goldgewicht's partially animated documentary "Pablo," about the visionary Cuban American graphic designer Pablo Ferro.

It will close Monday with a showing of "Nosotros los Nobles" (The Noble Family), a comic drama about a nouveau riche Mexican clan whose patriarch decides to teach his spoiled fresa children by forcing them to get jobs and experience how Mexico's 99% live. Directed and co-written by former USC film school student Gaz Alazraki, the film has set Mexican domestic-film box-office records.

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The festival's premier sponsors are the Los Angeles Times and its Spanish-language sister publication,  Hoy.

Marlene Dermer, the festival's executive director and co-founder, with Edward James Olmos and the late George Hernandez, says the board decided last summer to suspend the festival because it wasn't sure it could raise enough money to continue and didn't want to sink into debt.

Remounting the festival was financially difficult, she said: "I think it's been harder than our first year." She described this year's budget as "very, very minimal."

"We're hoping that people will buy tickets, show up, support us, donate, become a member," Dermer said.

Between tonight and Monday, LALIFF will screen a lineup of 62 films: 28 features, 11 documentaries and 23 shorts. Among them will be films directed by two local Latino theater stalwarts, adapted from plays that were performed on L.A. stages: Josefina Lopez's "Detained in the Desert" and Richard Montoya's "Water & Power."

Other anticipated films include several documentaries: Shaul Schwarz's harrowing "Narco Cultura," about the pop-culture mythologizing of Mexico's violent drug gangs; Emiliano Altuna's "El Alcalde," about the resolute mayor of the crime-embattled Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo; Olallo Rubio's "Gimme the Power," which tags along with Latin Grammy-winning veteran Mexico City rock band Molotov; and Diego Galán's "Con la Pata Quebrada" (Barefoot in the Kitchen), about the representation of women in Spanish cinema.

This year's slate includes an ususually large number of U.S-made films, but also covers the hemisphere, from Cuba to Chile and Brazil.

And there will be a special 25th anniversary screening of Ramón Menéndez's "Stand and Deliver," starring Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips in the drama based on the story of real-life Garfield High math teacher Jaime Escalante.

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