Latin America’s largest film fest, the 12th Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, opens Sept. 23 with the world premiere of Arnaldo Jabor’s “The Supreme Happiness” in downtown landmark theater Odeon.

During the fest’s 15 days, Cariocas, as Rio residents are known, and international guests will enjoy screenings of about 350 features and 50 shorts, most of them premieres in Brazil. One of the highlights is the competitive section of local pics, Premiere Brasil, which this year will have for the first time a special selection of docs about music and soccer in the Retratos (Portrays) section.

“The Rio Festival is the main window of Brazilian features to the world,” says fest co-general director Ilda Santiago.

“A large number of buyers, executives and programmers of other festivals fly to Rio to watch Brazilian films.”

“Supreme” is the highly anticipated return of Cinema Novo helmer Jabor, whose previous feature, “Love Me Forever or Never,” dates back to 1986. Jabor has since worked as a journalist, and this new pic tells the story of his child/teen years in Rio de Janeiro. Paramount Pictures will release the pic Oct. 29 in Brazil.

The fest’s closing pic is Andrucha Waddington’s “Lope,” a Spanish-language romantic drama based on the loves and lives of Spanish poet Siglo de Oro and playwright Felix Lope de Vega. Warners will release the pic Nov. 26 in Brazil.

This edition’s fest organizers have rearranged the event’s closing dates. The prize ceremony will be Oct. 5, while the closing pic, “Lope,” will be screened Oct. 6 in Odeon. The fest’s last day, Oct. 7, is dedicated to screenings of prize-winning pics.

Between “Supreme” and “Lope,” 150 guests attending the fest will be able to watch premieres of local pics, such as Toniko Melo’s “VIPs,” based on the true story of a man who impersonated a Brazilian airline company owner.

Helmer Alain Fresnot’s “Familia vende tudo,” a comedy about a financially strapped family, will be screened hors concours as part of Premiere Brasil.

Two other features competing for prizes will premiere in the fest. Flavio Frederico’s “Boca do Lixo” is based on the life story of Hiroito de Moraes Joanides, a gangster who acted in the Sao Paulo’s crime-filled district Boca do Lixo. And Geraldo Motta’s “O Senhor do labirinto” is the bio of Arthur Bispo do Rosario, an artist who lived in mental health facilities for 50 years.

This edition of the fest’s RioMarket is preceded by lots of positive news. Last year, Rio de Janeiro was selected to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, which, along with the discovery of huge deep-water oil reserves off the Rio state coastline, points to a turning point in the city’s economics.

Under such favorable skies, 150 to 200 international guests and locals will meet to discuss the trends of the film industry at the fest’s headquarters, a renewed warehouse in the city’s port region.

Fest co-general director and producer Walkiria Barbosa says that one of the RioMarket’s highlights will be the section on film opportunities in BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Fox International Productions director Anna Kokourina will moderate that table Sept. 28 with Moscow secretary of culture Alexey Sokhnev, Barbosa and reps from China and India.

Daniel Pereira, managing director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, lectures Sept. 27 on the trend of transmedia, in which storytelling is developed across multiple forms of media.

For the first time, the fests hosts the Film Business School Latin America 2010, a four-day intensive training program for 25 selected producers and execs. The course takes place Oct. 2-5 at the fest’s headquarters and is organized by Spain’s Media Business School Foundation together with Latin American Training Center and Center for Culture, Information and Environment.

— Marcelo Cajueiro