A LATIN AMERICAN film festival, with 15 films by Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. filmmakers, begins Saturday at the American Film Institute, at 6 with Juan Jose' Jusid's Made in Argentina, followed by a gala reception at the Kennedy Center. The festival continues Sunday with Jorge Cascia y Guillermo Saura's Sentimientos (also from Argentina, shown at 5), Jorge Ali Triana's A Time to Die (Colombia, at 7) and Carlos Mayolo's The Araucaima Mansion (Colombia, at 9). Monday, it's Sergio Rezende's The Man in the Black Cape (Brazil, 6:30) and Antonio Eguino's Chuquiago (Bolivia, 8:45); and Tuesday, Eduardo Escorel's Endless Dream (Brazil, 6:30). On Wednesday at 6:30 three films will play simultaneously: Carlos Oteyza's El Escandolo (Venezuela), Perry Henzell's The Harder They Come and Dickie Jobson's Countryman (both from Jamaica and shown in AFI screening rooms upstairs). At 8:30, it's Rodolfo Restifo's Reinaldo Solar (Venezuela). Thursday at 6:30, Alberto Cortes' Love Around the Corner (Mexico) and Arturo Ripstein's The Realm of Fortune (Mexico, 8:30) screen. And the series culminates Friday October 23 with Marcos Zurinaga's evocative La Gran Fiesta from Puerto Rico, and American Kevin Conway's The Sun and the Moon. Tickets for screenings are $4.50, or $3.50 for AFI members. Call 785-4600.

Free, free, free: At the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater, William Wyler's Mrs. Minniver (Friday, 7:30), Gregory Nava's El Norte (Monday 7:30), John Carpenter's Starman (Wednesday, 7:30) and Lewis Milestone's Les Miserables (Thursday, 7:30). Call early for reservations at 287-5677 . . .

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is showing free films and videotapes related to Hispanic themes. Saturday morning at 10:30, it's Paul Espinosa's Ballad of an Unsung Hero, a 28-minute PBS film about recording star and Pancho Villa associate Pedro J. Gonzalez. It's followed by Los Lobos: And a Time to Dance -- Sylvia Morales' half-hour short about the Hispanic Tex-Mex/rock band. All films will be shown in the Frances and Armand Hammer auditorium. The Saturday morning series runs through January 9 (ending with Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit). Call 638-3211.