Hector Babenco's much anticipated prison drama, Carandiru, opens wide in Brazil on up to 250 prints today, according to Columbia TriStar, Brazil.

Co-producer Globo Filmes, the film arm of leading broadcaster Globo TV, has invested nearly $1m in a massive advertising and marketing campaign which will include plugs on some top Globo TV programmes.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the US distribution rights. Other recent high profile films, City Of God and God Is Brazilian went out on 100 and 150 prints respectively.

Babenco shot to world acclaim in 1981 with his directorial debut Pixote, The Law Of The Weakest , a harrowing drama about Brazil's street children. His career peaked with The Kiss Of The Spiderwoman (1984), which received four Oscar nominations including Best Film. William Hurt won the Best Actor award for his performance as a gay prisoner who helps an imprisoned radical played by Raul Julia.

Babenco completed his previous film, Foolish Heart (Coracao Iluminada) after undergoing a bone marrow transplant to cure lymphatic cancer. Inspired by his teen memories, Foolish Heart is considered his most personal project.

Carandiru is based on a book written by Dr Drauzio Varella who describes the real events he witnessed while working as a volunteer at the Carandiru prison for five years. The drama has a good chance of getting into Cannes where most of his films have been accepted, starting with Pixote.