The 2011 HBO/New York International Latino Film festival is kicking off Monday night with a variety of feature films and shorts for young and old alike.

“This year we took some real risks,” said Calixto Chinchilla, founder and executive director of the New York Latino Film Festival. “This year we are opening with our first animated film, [which] was actually shot like a real movie. It’s called Chico and Rita, which played at Toronto, it opened at Miami International.”

For those salsa fans, Chinchilla excitedly dished about the Tribute to the Fania All-Stars.

“There was a 40th anniversary print,” Chinchilla said. “Years ago, we tried to show the film, but we didn’t even know what print existed.”

“Last year, Fania had uncovered it, through some theater in Arizona, one rusty print,” he added. “They restored it and we are premiering the restoration.”  

For Chinchilla, who helped launch the first New York International Film Festival, much has been accomplished within the U.S. Latino filmmaking community.

“All of this has grown so organically," said Chinchilla, adding that never in his “wildest dreams” did he imagine the success of the festival.

“There was that mix of frustration, there wasn’t an outlet. There was that need for community and unity,” Chinchilla said.

“Nothing beats the first year. Nothing ever in my brain could forget the first year,” he said shaking his head and smiling.

“It started out rag tagged…above a cuchifritos joint. [But] that feeling that we were on to something, that feeling that something could happen, that never escapes me.”

Besides honoring members of Fania, actor Andy García is also getting recognition for his many achievements throughout his career.

Andy Garcia has done everything from 'Internal Affairs' to the 'Godfather,'” said Chinchilla.

“He’s done so many amazing films his way. He has governed his career.”

You can reach Alexandra Gratereaux at: Alexandra.Gratereaux@foxnewslatino.com or via Twitter: @GalexLatino

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