Brazilian cinema takes centre stage at the Rio International Film Festival this week. Some 37 features and documentaries and 15 short films will screen in the competitive Premiere Brasil section.

Committed to providing a world platform for local film-makers, the festival will open with the world premiere of Jose Padilha's highly anticipated Elite Squad (Tropa De Elite). The film tells the true story of two young Rio de Janeiro police officers whose dreams of enforcing law and order are shattered by the corruption rooted in the Brazilian police force. 'We are extremely honoured to open with a very important Brazilian film that will certainly cross borders,' says Ilda Santiago, the festival's programming director.

Local directors Lucia Murat and Murilo Salles also have films that are making their world premieres in competition: Murat, whose credits include Almost Brothers and Brave New Land will present Mare - Our Love Story, a musical inspired by Romeo And Juliet, starring young people from a slum in Rio. Salles, who directed How Angels Are Born and Two Billion Hearts, returns with Nome Proprio, the story of a young woman who dreams of becoming a writer, which is based on a novel by Clarah Averbuck.

Aside from local films, Rio also showcases the best of new international cinema, with more than 300 films from 70 countries this year. The programme includes Cristian Mungiu's Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days, Carlos Saura's Fados, Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, Neil Jordan's The Brave One, David Lynch's Inland Empire, Kenneth Branagh's Sleuth and Goodbye Bafana by Bille August, one of the confirmed guests.

'Our role has always been to expand the audiences for Brazilian and for art films in general,' says Santiago, who expects the event to sell 250,000 tickets.

In a city of extremes, where rich and poor people live side by side, everybody is invited to the festival. Rio's inhabitants can attend the colourful outdoor screenings on Copacabana beach for free and an outreach section extends the festival to the suburbs where locals can't afford to buy tickets. Premiere Brasil screenings are usually very lively, especially when local TV stars attend.

Screenings take place all over the city, and events and parties are held in a huge white tent on Copacabana beach.

Rio World Premieres

Diario De Sintra (Brazil)

Dir: Paula Gaitan Prod: Urca Filmes

The personal diary of Paula Gaitan, when she lived in Portugal with her husband Glauber Rocha and her two children in 1981.

Contact: (55) 21 22 95 44 72/

Elite Squad (Tropa De Elite) (Brazil)

Dir: Jose Padilha Prod: Zazen Producoes

True story of two men in the Rio de Janeiro Military Police Special Unit. 'The experience of being a cop in Rio is so intense and challenging that I believe the movie will appeal not only to Brazilians, but also to anyone interested in human nature,' says Padilha.

Contact: (55) 21 25 35 54 06/

Mare - Our Love Story (Brazil)

Dir: Lucia Murat Prod: Taiga Filmes

Two young people from the favelas in Rio balance their turbulent lives learning how to dance in a social project.

Contact: (55) 21 25 79 39 51/

Nome Proprio (Brazil)

Dir: Murilo Salles Prod: Cinema Brasil Digital

An intense young woman dedicates her life to writing, her biggest passion.

Contact: (55) 21 22 67 33 36/

O Signo Da Cidade (Brazil)

Dir: Carlos Alberto Riccelli Prod: Pulsar Producoes

A film about an astrologer who gives advice on a radio programme.

Contact: (55) 11 37 42 39 54/

Rita Cadillac, A Lady Do Povo (Brazil)

Dir: Toni Venturi Prod: Olhar Imaginario

The life of a singer and dancer who used to perform in Carandiru prison for 50,000 men.

Contact: (55) 11 30 82 34 48/