More than 325 features set to screen before festival wraps on April 17; Argentine festival landscape shifting.

Hot on the heels of March’s Argentine-European film fest Pantalla Pinamar which saw attendance rise by 20% on 2010, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (Bafici) kicks into action tomorrow through April 17.

The event opens with the world premiere of Vaquero, local actor Juan Minujín‘s debut feature — about an embittered actor who lands a Hollywood audition.

Tickets for the 13th edition — the fourth led by artistic director Sergio Wolf — went on sale on Monday for the 325 features and 100-plus shorts. Bafici sold more than 200,000 tickets last year, although around 45,000 fewer than in 2009.

International industry attendees will include Michael Weber of The Match Factory, Brazilian producer Vânia Catani, Toronto’s Cameron Bailey, Pusan programmer Soue-won Rhee, Figa Films VP Sandro Fiorin, Arte France’s Rémi Burah, MK2’s Jean-François Deveau, Rotterdam programmer Gerwin Tamsma, and Jeremy Nathan of South African production company DV8.

In addition to the International and Argentine Competitions, Bafici also counts on four additional official categories: Argentine Shorts, Human Rights, Buenos Aires Lab (BAL) and Cinema of the Future.

The International jury includes Catalan producer Luis Miñarro, Swedish filmmaker Henrik Hellström, director of The Film Society of Lincoln Center Rose Kuo, Canadian filmmaker Gary Burns and Argentine director Santiago Loza, who jointly won Best Director with Iván Fund for The Lips (Los labios) at Bafici 2010.

The panel of five will select Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Screenplay from the 19-strong category, which includes the Argentine Yatasto by Hermes Paralluelo — the winning work in progress at 2010’s BAL; The Student (El estudiante) which is Santiago Mitre’s debut as a feature-length director after he co-wrote Pablo Trapero’s Carancho and Leonera; and the Uruguay-Argentina co-production directed by actor Daniel Hendler Norberto’s Deadline (Norberto apenas tarde).

The Argentine Competition includes Manduré Place (Sipo’hi - El lugar del manduré) by Sebastián Lingiardi who competed in the same category in 2010 with The Clues (Las pistas - Lanhoyij - Nmitaxanaxac) and Fund’s latest solo production Today I Wasn’t Scared (Hoy no tuve miedo).

Although Bafici is, according to artistic director Wolf, “the city’s biggest film festival and with respect to independent filmmakers, the most important in the region,” the word circulating at Pantalla Pinamar recently was that Argentina’s Mar del Plata international festival might be on its way out, albeit slowly.

Despite Bafici and Pantalla Pinamar being extremely different offerings to Latin America’s only class A-festival, Carlos Morelli, Pinamar’s artistic director said: “Mar del Plata has to keep on justifying its title as other festivals in the same category are very powerful, which is difficult - plus it’s hard to obtain exclusivity.”

However, INCAA film institute president Liliana Mazure didn’t want to comment to Screen on the subject.

Meanwhile, Pantalla Pinamar is playing out its own drama: the beachside theatres which host the March festival have been put on the market by owner Pinamar S.A. Although INCAA wouldn’t be in a position to purchase them, Morelli assured Screen the eighth edition would go ahead - and at different cinemas if necessary. He added: “INCAA and the local council have an agreement to resolve this problem.”