Helmers to present their films at fest

BUENOS AIRES — Hector Babenco’s prison drama “Carandiru,” Brazil’s submission for foreign-language Oscar, will kick off the Mar del Plata Intl. Film Festival.

Pupi Avati’s “Il cuore altrove” (A Heart Elsewhere), a love story from the Italian director, will close the 19th edition of Argentina’s biggest film fest. Event runs March 11-20 at various locations in the coastal city.

Babenco and Avati are scheduled to attend the event, organized by Argentina’s state National Film Institute (Incaa), a primary source of funding for the local film industry.

Fest is the second under the direction of helmer-scribe Miguel Pereira. He said he expects a rise in attendance, building on the momentum of last year’s strong turnout. About 150,000 people — twice that of 2002 — went to some of the 120 screenings at the 2003 event, as a recovering economy and low-ticket prices buoyed interest. As well as the official competition, the event will include a retrospective of Argentinean director Fernando Birri (“The Flooded”), a tribute to Italian film and a competition of femme-directed pics.

Other highlights are sections for Latin American films, pics celebrating the bizarre, current Argentinean film, documentaries and grad student films.

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