YOU DON'T SEE many Yugoslavian films at the Cineplex Odeon. But thankfully, the American Film Institute fills this and other voids. This month AFI will show a strong selection of recent films from this filmically prolific nation through mid-October. The series begins Friday night with Rajko Grlic's black comedy, In the Jaws of Life, and ends October 16 with Boro Draskovic's Life Is Beautiful. In between will come some 50 short and feature-length films. "Jaws of Life" plays Friday at 6:30 and Wednesday at 8:45. Saturday, 12 short films from the Zagreb animation studios will be shown (at 3:30) and Monday at 6:30, Dragan Kresoja's The End of the War -- Yugoslavia's 1985 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry -- will be screened. Thursday at 6:30 is Zivko Nikolic's comedy, Unseen Wonder, which won the Silver Medal at the 1985 Moscow Film Festival. There's tons more -- check the AFI schedule or call 785-4600 for details. Admission is $4.50 for nonmembers.

Zoot Suit, the 1981 film by Luis Valdez (riding high these days with La Bamba) will be shown Thursday at 8 at the American History Building's Carmichael Auditorium. It stars Edward James Olmos (better known as the laconic Lt. Castillo in "Miami Vice"). It's based on the true story of Sleepy Lagoon -- where 600 Chicanos were arrested in Los Angeles, after a young Chicano was found murdered near a reservoir. A dozen were convicted, but released 18 months later. Admission to the R-rated film is $6.50 for nonmembers. NCLR executive director Raul Yzaguirre will introduce the film. 357-3030. There's a BIG guy ready to darken the screens this Friday. His name's Joe Barton. He's 360 pounds. Haven't seen the movie (Slaughterhouse) yet, but hear it involves meat-knife killings. Anyway, Big Joe's gonna show at (where else?) The Sign of the Whale restaurant Thursday night around 9:30 to demolish a whaleburger in an unashamed publicity stunt for a movie that probably won't topple Citizen Kane. But how often do you get to ogle the Incredible Hulk?

Good (and free) stuff at the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater (James Madison Building, Independence and First Street SE, third floor): this Friday is John Huston's Key Largo, at 7:30; then King Vidor's adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Wednesday September 16 at 7:30; Thursday at 7:30 it's Huston's The Red Badge of Courage, with I.F. Stone's Weekly, Jerry Bruck's beautifully drawn portrait of independent, sock-it-to-'em journalist Izzy Stone.

Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 6, West German director Wim Wenders' whimsical Kings of the Road will be screened free at the National Gallery's East Building.