Promising start to Argentina film fest

Week-long event aims to promote region

SAN LUIS, Argentina — With ambitions to get on the global fest circuit, the inaugural San Luis Cine Intl. Festival launched Nov. 16, with Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” screening out of competition.

“The festival will help the province of San Luis connect with the whole world of film,” general director Julio Marbiz told Variety. The fest wraps Nov. 25 with 18 entries in the competition and a cash prize of $50,000 for the winner plus kudos for actor, actress, director and screenplay. The fest also will award cash prizes of $10,000 for top documentary and $5,000 for best short.

Marbiz said the event, which has attracted celebs Geraldine Chaplin and Catherine Deneuve, is part of a strategy to show off the production capabilities of the province, known for its dry weather, well-lit highways and green hills.

San Luis is building a film industry and wants to help finance foreign productions shot partly in the province, 500 miles west of Buenos Aires. With an annual production budget of $7 million, the provincial government has co-financed features including Tristan Bauer’s Tribeca-winning war pic “Iluminados por el fuego” (Enlightened by Fire). It recently opened a $3 million studio, one of the best equipped in Argentina.

Marbiz said he chose an international focus for the fest to attract a wider range of films and visitors. The aim, too, is to set the event apart from bigger fests in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, which spotlight independent and Latin American films, respectively.

Production designer Eugenio Zanetti, who is on the Chaplin-led seven-member jury, lauded the fest. “Sundance began as small or even smaller than this festival so hopefully San Luis can become as big as Sundance,” Zanetti said.

The competish started Nov. 17 with Cannes-laureled “Jellyfish” by Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.” Other contenders are Berlin-prized “Takva: A Man’s Fear of God,” by Turkey’s Ozer Kiziltan, Iranian Mani Haghighi’s “Men at Work” and “Angel-A” by France’s Luc Besson.

San Luis Cine, the province’s film board that is organizing the event with a $600,000 budget, has set Nov. 14-23 for the soph edition.

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