CHAT: LALIFF co-founder Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos
(Edward James Olmos)

In 1997, actor, director, producer, and activist Edward James Olmos saw a need to create a venue to promote Latino and Latina voices. As an established actor, Olmos wanted to discover the next generation of voices and help bring their art to the forefront of cinema.

Olmos teamed with co-founders Marlene Dermer (1997-2014), Kirk Whisler and the late George Hernandez and the City of Los Angeles to launch the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF).

This would become the first-ever Latino-focused International film festival in the country. It was here, now launching its 20th season today, that filmmakers including Academy-Award winning directors, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, and Pablo Larrain, as well as home to the first films by Golden Globe-winning actresses, Gina Rodriguez and America Ferrera, were introduced to audiences.

After going virtual last year due to the pandemic, LALIFF is back this year with a combination of live and virtual screenings and events, al still dedicated to showcasing the entirety of the human experience from the Latino perspective.

Reel 360 had an opportunity to speak with whom some call, “The Latino Robert DeNiro,” Edward James Olmos. We talk about everything from the fest to Battlestar Galactica. Watch below:

RELATED: LALIFF: Animated shorts program rundown

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) takes place June 2 – 6. Celebrating the 20th anniversary, LALIFF 2021 will be a hybrid festival with both in-person and virtual screenings, including the previously announced Special Preview Screening of In the Heights on June 4. In-person screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese Theatre and the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1