‘Turtles’ to open arty Mar de Plata fest

Fest aims to establish itself as an industry platform

Argentina’s 20th Mar del Plata Film Festival, Latin America’s only FIAPF category one fest, will open with Balhman Ghobadi’s “Turtles Can Fly” and showcase 17 other pics from March 10-20.

Comprised of mostly challenging art films from little known directors, plus a clutch of celebrated titles, pics underscore a sea change at the fest.

Under fest director Miguel Pereira, now in his third year, an event once best known for star photo calls and lost film copies has found a social conscience and aims to establish itself as an industry platform.

Most competish films have seen outings in sidebars such as Venice’s Horizons or the Berlin Panorama in the case of Anahi Berneri’s “A Year Without Love.” But a relaxation in FIAPF regs allows them to compete at Mar del Plata, according to Pereira.

Potential standouts include Finnish helmer Pirjo Honkasalo’s Russian-Chechen war docu “The 3 Rooms of Melancholia,” Belgian Frederic Fonteyne’s tale of an overly devoted spouse, “Gilles’ Wife,” and Korean Ryu Jang-ha’s “Springtime,” about a music teacher.

Many competish films chart social or historical trends, such as Yasmine Kassari’s “The Sleeping Child,” about the impact of immigration in North Africa (Venice Horizons); Ismael Ferroukhi’s road pic to Mecca, “Le Grand Voyage”; meditation on porn “A Hole in My Heart,” from Scandinavia’s Lukas Moodysson; and Lucia Murat’s “Almost Brothers,” about the 50-year friendship of two Brazilians.

Two competish films explore off-beat relations: Dylan Kidd’s Laura Linney starrer “P.S.” and Gotz Spielmann’s “Antares,” a dark contempo portrait of a relationship.

Competition also offers two revisionist views of German history: Volker Schlondorff’s Gestapo officer/Catholic priest face-off, “The Ninth Day,” and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Oscar nominee “Downfall.”

Mar del Plata also will also bow the Mercosur Film Market aimed at finding international sales for Argentinian and Latin American films.

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