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LexLatino Film Fest's movies focus on female stars Carmen Miranda, Dolores Del Rio, others

Marco Perez and Sofia Espinosa portray Sergio  Andrade and Gloria Trevi in the new biopic Gloria.
Marco Perez and Sofia Espinosa portray Sergio Andrade and Gloria Trevi in the new biopic Gloria.

It probably will be a while before the LexLatino Film Festival starts to look anything like the annual 10-day San Diego Latino Film Festival that inspired it.

But after a successful first outing, organizer Dominic Martina is moving forward with a second edition, Thursday through Saturday at the Kentucky Theatre.

This year, the focus is "100 Years of latina women in cinema," with features that range from Carmen Miranda to young star Sofia Espinosa. The inspiration was Espinosa's death last October and Martina's opinion that she played an important role in the rise of Latina women in cinema.

"We were going to show Lone Star, the John Sayles movie that has one of her great performances, to honor her," Martina says. "But when (Kentucky Theatre manager Fred Mills) tried to book it, he found out it is in a legal dispute, and we can't show it."

So Martina turned to current features and he heard strong buzz about Gloria, the biopic of 1990s Mexican pop star Gloria Trevi, who rose to fame in the 1990s but had her hit-making career cut short by a sex scandal.

The movie premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival earlier this year and New York's Havana Film Festival to great acclaim. It opened in theaters over the summer, but this weekend's screenings will be the movie's Lexington premiere.

"The big draws were all the buzz about it, and that it will be a first-run movie here," Martina says.

The new movie will be balanced out on the schedule by films featuring some iconic names in Latino cinema, including Carmen Miranda in the 1947 comedy Copacabana opposite Grouch Marx in his first solo outing away from the Marx Brothers. The film is regarded as a showcase for Miranda, famous for her colorful clothes and fruity headwear, featuring her singing numbers such as Tico Tico.

The oldest film in the 100-years celebration is Flying Down to Rio, a 1933 musical starring Dolores Del Rio as the flirtatious woman who lures a bandleader played by Gene Raymond off the stage to pursue her. The movie is notable for being the first on-screen pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Del Rio was the first Latina crossover star in Hollywood for a career that spanned from the silent film era into the 1940s. During that time, she had a well publicized affair with director and actor Orson Welles. After her Hollywood career faded, she pursued significant work on stage and in Mexican film until her death in 1983 at age 77.

Puerto Rican-born actor Rita Moreno is shown in the 1976 showcase The Ritz, reprising her Tony Award-winning role in the Terrence McNally play. It's a farce set in a gay bathhouse in New York, where a straight Cleveland businessman takes refuge from his homicidal brother-in-law. Moreno plays a struggling entertainer whom the businessman mistakes for a drag queen. Hilarity ensues.

Martina says the most difficult films to book are more recent ones, such as the 2002 film Real Women Have Curves, which he had hoped to book to include America Ferrera in the pantheon of Latina women in cinema.

But he is happy with the lineup and some of the extras, including a display of costumes inspired by the actresses fashioned by Lexington designer Soreyda Benedit Begley. There also are portraits of the actresses by Lexington artist Ike Moody; food and drink, including representatives from Scorpion Mezcal Distillery in Mexico pouring their mezcals; and a post-screening question-and-answer session after Thursday night's showing of Gloria, hosted by Joe Conkwright of WUKY-FM.

Martina hopes to build on last year's festival, with an eye to the future.

"It's hard to do too much with three days," Martina says. "But if the event gains traction, I hope we can screen more movies, and maybe even get some filmmakers and actors in."

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