Los Angeles-based Christina Marouda had always enjoyed Indian cinema. But it was only when she worked at the city's two biggest film festivals, Afi Fest and the Los Angeles Film Festival, that she realised Indian films needed a better platform in the world's movie capital.

"Apart from Cannes and Berlin, Indian producers don't know how to submit their films onto the Western festival circuit," she explains. "Those festivals just don't get many submissions from India, and there are so many countries to focus on that Indian cinema often gets lost."

In 1992, she created the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (Iffla) as, in her own words "a sort of Sundance of Indian film".

Marouda conceived the event as a way to discover new talent and highlight established talent that needed exposure.

She deliberately focused on independent film from the continent, leaving the Bollywood blockbusters to the established distribution systems and theatres that serve the Indian diaspora in the US.

"I knew there was a community that would support it," she says, "but it was also around the time of Monsoon Wedding and Lagaan, and Indian film was first starting to show its crossover appeal."

Now in its fifth year, Iffla has a 32-member organising committee, has been expanded to six days and last year was attended by 6,000 people. The festival is based at Hollywood's popular Arclight multiplex, since Marouda wanted to make the festival palatable to the local industry.

"We extend invitations to industry executives all the time. And with Water and The Namesake continuing to generate interest here in Indian cinema, we are constantly trying to reach out to the Hollywood community."

The festival's growth is represented in this year's sponsors, among them Time Warner Cable, Sony Pictures Television International, Wal-Mart Stores and Wells Fargo Bank. "We've gained a lot of momentum in the first five years," says Marouda.

Ironically, the festival is introducing a Bollywood sidebar this year, although Marouda says it will focus mainly on classic films "that Western audiences should look at".

Highlights this year include opening film Provoked, directed by Jag Mundhra and starring Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews and Miranda Richardson, and closing night film Vanaja, directed by Rajnesh Domalpalli.