Mauro Buenos Aires Film Festival

The Buenos Aires Intl. Independent Film Festival — Bafici — marks South America’s biggest indie arthouse movie meet, and a springboard for new Argentine film talent.

The 2014 edition, which runs April 2-13, boasts 450 titles, and looks to improve ticket sales over 2013, when 372,000 admissions were marked, a rise of 10% over 2012. Bafici has even more Argentine world premieres than last year, both in a dedicated domestic competition and an international contest, in which two local world bows are feature debuts: Hernan Rosselli’s hustler tale “Mauro,” with post-production costs backed by the Buenos Aires government’s Metropolitan Fund for Culture; and Juan Martin Hsu’s immigrants drama “La Salada,” winner of the San Sebastian Festival’s 2013 pics in post Films in Progress.

Bafici artistic director Marcelo Panozzo points out that this year’s event, in a nod to the World Cup year in football-mad Argentina, will re-launch a sports cinema section, Sportivo Bafici. The section’s titles range from John Huston’s classic boxing drama “Fat City” to Alex Gibney’s 2013 docu on cyclist Lance Armstrong, “The Armstrong Lie,” plus an homage to Danish documentarian Jorgen Leth, with docs “Motion Picture,” “Chinese Ping-Pong” and “Pelota.”

Israel receives a country focus featuring a tribute to actor-director Uri Zohar, who helped put Israeli pics on the map in the 1970s with films such as “Peeping Toms” and “Big Eyes,” before he abandoned filmmaking to became a rabbi.

Ari Folman’s “The Congress” opens Bafici; “The Second Game,” from Romania’s Corneliu Porumboiu, a personal soccer documentary, closes.

Panozzo’s selection includes shorter features, such as “The Island,” a 30-minute pic from Chile’s Dominga Sotomayor and Poland’s Katarzyna Klimkiewicz; Taiwan-based helmer Tsai Ming-liang’s “Journey to the West,” at 56 minutes; and Carles Torrens’ 20-minute “Sequence,” which was one of the most-applauded films at October’s Sitges.

Panozzo, who took up the Bafici reins in May 2012, launched the avant-garde & genre competition last year, and this year it will offer some of the fest’s most intriguing items: Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color,” Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales’ “Big Bad Wolves;” and “Living Stars,” in which Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn film dancers.

“There is a spirit, which incredibly — and thankfully — has not been changed: our idea that the audience must get larger every year, and the response from the public, which is always extraordinary. This spirit generates an ambience I have rarely seen,” Panozzo says.

“We’ve tried to reduce the number of films a little bit, because (450) is an unmanageable figure,” Panozzo says, adding that it’s been impossible. “The virus of ‘programming until the last moment’ attacks us again,” he jokes.

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