Like no other fest in Brazil, Rio draws international film industry execs, producers, helmers, actors, buyers, sellers, fest organizers, press and critics. And with them come just as many eager filmmakers desperate for attention.

Young helmers Matheus Souza and Paulo Pons will compete with their debut pics. Souza’s “Apenas o fim” (Simply the End) was lensed on Rio’s PUC U. campus, where he is a film student. Pons’ “Vinganca” (Revenge) is based on the helmer’s experience as a youngster moving from southern Brazil to Rio.

Matheus Nachtergaele and Selton Mello, two of Brazil’s top telenovela stars, will also join the competition: Nachtergaele with “The Dead Girl’s Feast,” about a religious leader in the Amazon, and Mello with “December,” an urban family drama. Both pics had their world premieres in Cannes 2008’s Un Certain Regard.

Following the B.O. success of “Big Family” in 2007, helmer Mauricio Farias will premiere “Veronica,” about a schoolteacher trying to prevent a student from becoming a drug dealer.

Veteran helmer Domingos Oliveira, known for his Woody Allen-like pics, will compete with “Juventude” (Youth), in which he also stars. Another Oliveira pic, “Todo mundo tem problemas sexuais” (Everybody Has Sexual Problems), will be screened in the Premiere Brasil section.

Another expected highlight comes via Guel Arraes’ “Romance.” The helmer has produced several top B.O. hits, such as “A Dog’s Will” and “Lisbela and the Prisoner,” but “Romance” is said to be more arthouse inclined.

Other highlights are the local experimental master Julio Bressane’s “A erva do rato” (Rat’s Herb) and Jorge Fernando’s comedy “A guerra dos Rocha” (The Rochas’ War).