Cinepolis-back fest will take place in Morelia in Oct.

MEXICO CITY — With a growing festival, a new film fund in development and the possibility of a major studio development, Michoacan is shooting for a bigger star on the movie industry map.

State capital Morelia will host its third international film fest from Oct. 8-16. Backed with funds from nation’s largest exhib, Cinepolis, the event has become one of the most important fests on the Mexican calendar after Guadalajara.

This year, 42 shorts and 17 documentaries produced in Mexico will be shown in the competition, which has become a scouting event for local producers looking for new talent in Mexico’s small and struggling industry.

More than 20 of the features shown at Cannes will make their Mexican bows at the fest, including “Me and You and Everyone We Know.”

Eleven Mexican pics will be shown, with the premieres of Rio Negro’s Colombian co-production “Rosario Tijeras,” Amat Escalante’s “Sangre” and Decine’s “American Visa.”

Morelia is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico, and its striking lakes and mountains were shot in many films during Mexico’s golden age of cinema in the 1940s. Now film promoters are hoping the state’s growing profile will draw in more domestic and international films.

Fest patron Cinepolis, privately owned by the Ramirez family, is flush with cash. Company has built about 100 theaters a year, mostly in mid-sized towns, since 2003, and is investing $100 million during 2005-6 for 200 more.

The Ramirezes are also investing in moviemaking. Exhib has helped fund post-production and publicity on four pics in two years, and has several more projects that it plans to co-produce.

“Our core business is exhibition, we aren’t looking to fully finance movies, but we are looking to get in when interesting projects come along,” says Ramon Ramirez, Cinepolis marketing director, who isn’t related to the owners.

Cinepolis is also rumored to be preparing to build the nation’s largest studio, having already purchased the land and drawn up plans.

Ramirez said he was unfamiliar with the plans. “We are here, the festival is here, it’s a logical step.”

Local government is also taking an interest. Michoacan has become a stronghold for Mexico’s leftist PRD.

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, son of three-time presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, is fest veep while Cardenas’ other son, Michoacan’s governor Lazaro Cardenas, has committed to help establish a film fund.

Manfred Lopez, a young entrepreneur and Morelia native who previously worked in L.A. and New York, is trying to tap federal and state coin to create a $15 million fund. Lopez moved back to Morelia earlier this year to found a film center to promote the state.

Lopez has already received around $1.5 million from private U.S. investors and has received initial commitments from the state government. Lopez says the fund could be operational by mid-2006 and he plans to begin shooting a first film in February.

Efforts to decentralize federal monies to state agencies may benefit the Michoacan fund, as well as other states such as Jalisco and Nuevo Leon, that are developing film funds.

But the local funds will have to show they can do something with state money before Congress is likely to earmark funds, said Victor Ugalde, head of federal film fund Fidecine.

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