The 21st edition of the Guadalajara Film Festival starts FridayMarch 24 with the gala presentation of Carlos Saura'sIberia.

Mexico's most establishedfestival and a major one within Latin America finds itself at aturning point as it needs to redefine its image and scope after it turned intoa fully-fledged international event last year. The Guadalajara InternationalFilm Festival now faces considerable competition from two other nationalevents-FICCO in Mexico City and the Morelia Film Festival. Guadalajara will also have todemonstrate that it can establish a proper identity for itself, so that it cancompete with other major International Latin American Festivals and concurrentMarkets such as the revitalized Mar de Plata in Argentina.

Jorge Sanchez, a renowned former producer brought in only a couple ofmonths ago by the founder and president of the event, Raul Padilla, is incharge of implementing Guadalajara's restructuring.

Talking to Screen Sanchezemphasized that "this will be a transition year where most of theinfrastructure and sections will stay identical to last year considering theshort time I am at the helm." The restructuring is expected to be in place in2007 although Sanchez has secured a new prize, the PremioTornasol worth $302,662 (Euros 250,000) madeavailable by Gerardo Herrero's Madrid based Tornasol production outfit. The prize will be awarded tothe winning project of the 2nd IberoamericanCoproduction Encounter, a section the new director isexpected to nurture, alongside the concurrent 4th Iberoamerican Film Market. Guadalajara's awards in cash,distributed among its various strands, will amount this year to over $ 400,000 upfrom $235,000 last year.

Sanchez has scaled down the number of films from last year's 200 to 175including six Mexican world premieres among the nine titles-strong featurecompetition section, the Mexican Panorama. Among the later is Francisco Vargas'El violin, heavily tipped for a slot at the upcoming Cannes FilmFestival.

Other strands include the 20 pictures-strong Iberoamericanfeature competition, as well as the Iberoamericandocumentary competition showcasing 16 films, among them four Mexicandocumentaries including the Sundance 2006 winner, Juan Carlos Rulfo's In the Pit-Enel hoyo - plus an 11-title strong worldwideDocumentary Information section. Mexican and Iberoamericanshorts round off the competition sections while sidebars are dedicated toselections of international feature productions and a selection of soccerrelated films on the occasion of this year's World Cup competition in Germany.

Homage will be paid to the American independent director JohnSayles-accompanied by a retrospective of six of his films- and to the Spanishstar Marisa Paredes accompanied by a selection ofseven films she starred in. They will be joined by Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz who will also receive a career award.

Paredes is part of the Spanishdelegation at the festival to support the Spanish Cinema Panorama, a selectionof recent Spanish films. Spain is also the subjectof this year's special country focus.

The festival wraps March 31st with the world premiere ofEdward James Olmos' Walkout featuring Spy Kidsstar Alexa Vega.