The 22nd Mar del Plata International Film Festival (March 8-18) is set to launch the Ernesto Che Guevara prize with a cash award of $50,000 for Best Film in a new section reserved for first and second Latin American features and documentaries, which will run parallel to the official competition.

'The cash prize will be distributed in the following way: $10,000 to the director, $10,000 to the producer and the remaining $30,000 to cover marketing expenses to launch the film in Argentina,' says festival director Miguel Pereira.

Latin America's only FIAPF classified A-level festival 'is increasing its focus on the region's emerging talents,' explains Pereira, who is in his fifth and final year as head of the event.

This year's complete programme will be announced during Berlin's EFM next month, but selections already confirmed include Argentinians Gustavo Postiglione's La Peli and Hernan Gaffet's Ciudad en Celo (City In Heat); veteran Brazilian master Carlos Caca Diegues' O Maior Amor do Mundo (The Biggest Love In The World) will be part of the official competition; and Christian Bernard-Flavio Nardini's Regresados and Nicolas Prividera's documentary M for the new Latin American section.

Also among the 300 titles (120 features and 180 shorts) selected for this year's edition are Manoel de Oliveira's Belle Toujours, Bruno Dumont's Flanders, Lars Von Trier's The Boss Of It All, Rachid Bouchareb's Days Of Glory and Johnnie To's Exiled and Election 2.

'There will be a gala tribute to the late directors Fabian Bielinsky and Eduardo Mignogna, a retrospective of Aardman's works with the presence of Peter Lord and David Sproxton, a focus on Afro-American cinema with Charles Burnett, and selections of new Italian films and auteur movies from the Maghreb,' says Pereira.

An important addition to the festival will be a series of conferences on the future of cinema coordinated by former Buenos Aires Film Festival director Eduardo Antin (Quintin) with the participation of top film critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, Kent Jones, Mark Peranson, Adrian Martin, Cristina Nord and Alvaro Arroba.

The Mercosur Film Market, which ran parallel to the festival in its first two editions, will be organised by the local film institute (INCAA) in Buenos Aires later this year.

The $1.8m film festival sold a record 150,000 admissions last year and Pereira hopes to surpass that figure next March.