Roars of laughter tend to erupt in movie theaters before a Cine Las Americas film even begins. Blame the comical and risqué preshow ads created by Austin-based advertising agency LatinWorks.

Their popular promotional campaign — "If this is our reality, imagine our films" — has helped lift the profile of the international film festival since the campaign started four years ago and has helped spread the buzz.

Over the years, the spots have won numerous advertising awards as well as stirred some controversy abroad with a concept that pokes fun at the absurdity of daily life in Latin America. No country is safe from the lighthearted ridicule.

And this year's goal is to have these new spots go viral, according to Cine Las Americas executive director Eugenio del Bosque.

Already, one of the festival's 2012 promotional spots has more than 180,000 online views and climbing. It highlights a bizarre but true Brazilian YouTube dance video. Sneak peeks at this year's ads, which stay true to their edgy nature, are online on the festival's YouTube channel.

Popular spots in the past have taken real footage of zany speeches by Latin American leaders and turned them into comedy gold. Most notable is a spot that featured a speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In Chávez's speech on water conservation, he reveals how he manages to take a shower within two minutes using only a small cup of water. The ad showed a big, hairy man in the shower trying to follow Chavez's advice.

"If you are Latino, then you understand that things in Latin America are a little off-beat, and we have fun with that," said Sergio Alcocer, LatinWorks' president and chief creative officer. "If you're not from Latin America, then you can still understand that it's a strange place where magical things happen. Day-to-day life throughout Latin America creates magical results, and the films represent that magic," Alcocer said.

The stranger-than-fiction theme remains the same throughout the festivals, but LatinWorks communicates these strange realities in unique ways each year, which requires months of research and brainstorming, Alcocer said.

The collaborative process, he said, usually begins in November, and by March is in the polishing stages.

"We like to take risks and add variety," Alcocer said. "We're inspired by great artists and films and stay loyal to our idea. We're critical but respectful and not afraid to call something a little strange."

Contact Nancy Flores at 912-2559