Area moviegoers, brace yourselves for a potential citywide Jujube shortage. With a glut of independent film festivals descending upon Washington this month, there's certainly a lot to chew on, concessions notwithstanding.

For those who couldn't get off work for last week's D.C. Labor Filmfest at AFI, or blinked through last weekend's D.C. Shorts Film Festival, fret not. There's still plenty of time to catch the Washington Latin American Film Festival at AFI, the DC Underground Film Festival at the Goethe-Institut and the "Night Shift" midnight-movie series at Landmark's E Street Cinema.

The 16th annual Washington Latin American Film Festival kicked off yesterday at the AFI Silver Theatre, promising an intriguing roster of movies from some of the fastest-growing film industries south of Hollywood. This year's festival reflects that growth not in numbers but in quality. The program, 30 films from 14 countries, is par for the course, but this year's roster offers quite a few award winners, including two films submitted by their countries for 2004 Oscar consideration: Brazil's "Olga" and Peru's "Paper Dove."

Nearly a dozen filmmakers and actors are scheduled to present their films in person. Sponsors at the Inter-American Development Bank will also host a panel discussion at the IDB Cultural Center on Monday evening.

Scheduled participants include Argentina's Vera Fogwill (writer, director and actress in "Kept and Dreamless," a comedic melodrama about a flighty, troubled single mom) and Costa Rica's Esteban Ramirez (writer, director and producer of "Caribe," a story of latter-day corporate imperialism). And while a topic hasn't been chosen -- details, details -- the discussion is likely to veer toward Latin America's bourgeoning movie business.

"The industry is growing and growing, and the quality of the films is getting stronger and stronger," says festival curator Patricia Dalone. "Last year, Chile had trouble presenting just one movie to us, and this year we had eight or nine."

The festival accepted three of those submissions, including "Bad Blood," director Leon Errazuriz's gritty glimpse of Santiago street culture that made waves at last year's San Sebastian Film Festival.

And for the first time, the festival accepted a submission from the Dominican Republic: "The Curse of Father Cardona" is a romantic comedy directed by Felix German. Dalone recommends it not only for a good laugh but also for its rising star, Zoe Saldana.

"She could be the next Salma Hayek," Dalone says.

The DC Underground Film Festival, meanwhile, promises no future superstars, only "thought-provoking, funny and engaging films that prove you don't need a lot of money to make a great flick."

Those are the words of Allyson Kapin, founder of the festival, which launches its third annual installment at the Goethe-Institut on Sept. 30.

"We want to fill a void in the underground film community," Kapin says. "D.C. is really starving for more experimental films."

The festival features "Chain," Jem Cohen's film about two women adrift in American consumer culture, and "Kings of the Sky," a documentary that follows tightrope artist Adil Hoxur on a tour of China. The program also boasts an array of experimental films and an animation program, featuring shorts by Chel White, Jen Sachs and Lew Baldwin.

Finally, night owls should direct their caffeinated gaze toward "Night Shift: Midnight Movies Curated by D.C.'s Favorite Sons," masterminded by Landmark's resident midnight movie buff (and regional marketing manager), Matt Cowal. The series kicked off last Saturday with a screening of "Young Frankenstein," hosted by former local TV personality Dick Dyszel, whom some may fondly remember as Count Gore De Vol, host of the Saturday night "Creature Feature" on Channel 20 years ago.

Other guest curators include "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" directors Jeff Krulik and John Heyn and The Post's own Stephen Hunter. On deck this Saturday night, novelist George Pelecanos hosts a screening of the 1967 cult-crime flick "Point Blank."

Hey -- any Jujubes left?

The Washington Latin American Film Festival runs through Oct. 3 at the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. For showtimes call 301-495-6720 or visit www.afi.com/silver. The panel discussion takes place Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the IDB Cultural Center, 1300 New York Ave. NW, and is free.

The DC Underground Film Festival runs Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW. For more information visit www.dcuff.org.

Night Shift: Midnight Movies Curated by D.C.'s Favorite Sons screens every Saturday at midnight through Oct. 15 at Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. For more information visit www.landmarktheatres.com or call 202-452-7672.

Now showing, clockwise from below: Vera Fogwill and Lucia Sneig in "Kept and Dreamless" from Argentina; a scene from "Bad Blood" from Chile; and Zoe Saldana in "The Curse of Father Cardona" from the Dominican Republic, all at the Washington Latin American Film Festival; and Miho Nikaido and Mira Billotte in "Chain," above, at the DC Underground Film Festival.