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Peter Scarlet Named Artistic Director of Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival

Former San Francisco, Tribeca, Abu Dhabi fest director brought in to heighten event’s international reach

Former Tribeca Festival director Peter Scarlet has been named artistic director of Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival, its management entity, Argentina’s Incaa film agency, announced Saturday in Buenos Aires.

At a time when festivals remain in part “auteur” events – their industry events, “A” list actor presence and type and tenor of movies being marked very much by the ambitions and vision of their directors – Scarlet’s appointment marks a bold move by Incaa to take Mar del Plata’s international reach to a far higher level, bringing in a seasoned festival executive with large experience, far-ranging contacts and a passion for movies from in and outside the U.S..

Director of the San Francisco intl. Film Festival from 1983 to 2001, Scarlet was already an institution on the festival circuit before moving to Tribeca where, over 2003-09, he spearheaded the consolidation of the then-fledgling film event. He also served as director of the Abu Dhabi Festival from 2009 to 2012.

Scarlet’s challenge is to solve the Mar del Plata paradox.

On one hand, taking place in Argentina’s most celebrated Atlantic coast summer resort, Mar del Plata remains the only so-called “A” festival in Latin America – in other words, to rate among the 15 Competitive Feature Film Festivals recognized by the Intl. Federation of Film Producers Assns., whose ranks also include Berlin, Cannes and Venice.

Since the turn of the century, moreover, the Argentine cinema has grown dynamically in top fest berths, prizes and sales.

Yet, while Mar del Plata has strengthened its role over recent years as a domestic platform for Argentine movies, the Mar del Plata Festival remains relatively little known abroad and boasts only a select international industry and press presence.

In a second appointment, Rosa Martinez Rivero, a longtime fest executive at both Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires’ Bafici event, a much more “indie” affair, has been appointed as producer of the Mar del Plata Festival. Jose Martinez Suarez, Mar del Plata festival president over the last decade, will remain at his post.

“To the continuity of [other festival] planners, we add two people who, with their expertise, will make a contribution as far as diversity is concerned,” Incaa president Ralph Haiek commented at Scarlet’s presentation.

“With them, we aim for our festival not only to maintain its “A” class classification, but also to acquire more presence on the international festival agenda,” he added.

The 32nd Mar del Plata Festival will maintain its main sections of international, Latin American and Argentine competitions, plus an Argentine film works in progress and Latin American co-production forum. Crucially, it has set dates of Nov. 17 – 26, which will allow film execs and fest heads to take in its tail end, which traditionally sees its industry events, before segueing to Ventana Sur in Buenos Aires.

Organized by the Cannes Festival and Incaa and Latin America’s biggest film mart-meet, Ventana Sur unspools Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.

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