LA Bamba, Luis Valdez' charming new film about the life of '50s pop meteor Ritchie Valens, has its D.C. premiere at the American Film Institute Wednesday.

Valens died in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. As written and directed by Valdez, "Bamba" is a rock 'n' roll fairytale about nice guys finishing first, and West Coast band Los Lobos provides excellent musical backing to lead actor Lou Diamond Phillip's Valens. Valdez will attend the AFI screening, which benefits HAMAS, the Washington chapter of the Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. Admission is $15. "La Bamba" also opens commercially July 24.

(Incidentally, Valdez's 1981 Zoot Suit will be shown by the Smithsonian Resident Associates September 17.)

The Biograph also features a bunch of local premieres from now till September. The first is Saxophone Colossus, a 1986 documentary about tenor player Sonny Rollins, directed by Robert Mugge, a former Washingtonian who also made Cool Running, a documentary of the 1983 Sunsplash Festival. ("Cool" will have its Washington premiere at the Biograph July 17.) "Colossus" runs Saturday through Tuesday, paired with Bertrand Tavernier's jazz paean Round Midnight.

The Smithsonian Resident Associates offer a rare look at German director Margarethe von Trotta's work the next three Monday nights at 8: Marianne and Juliane (July 6), Sisters or the Balance of Happiness (July 13) and Sheer Madness (July 20). Admission for nonmembers is $6:50 per film or $18 for the series (members $5, or $14 for all three). At American History's Carmichael Auditorium. Call 357-3030.

The Anne Arundel Community College's cultural committee features a well- selected summer film noir series Tuesday nights. This Tuesday you can see Fritz Lang and Nunnally Johnsons's Woman in the Window (1945), with Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady (1944). Others are Nightmare Alley and Max Ophuls' Caught (July 14), T-Men and Criss Cross (July 21), Double Indemnity and Detour (July 28), Night in the City and D.O.A. (August 4) and In a Lonely Place and Where the Sidewalk Ends (August 11). The films are shown at the Pascal Center for the Performing Arts on the college's Arnold campus, eight miles north of Annapolis on College Parkway off Route 2. Admission is $2. Call 269-7341 . . .

Sidwell Cinema will show Tod Browning's Freaks Friday though Sunday. The 1932 cult classic is about circus freaks' revenge on a woman who exploits one of them. The program includes a sampler of early silent shorts, including three by D.W. Griffith. It's $3.50 at Sidwell Friends School. Call 537-8135 for times . . .