A high-powered delegation of French producers will be visiting India later this week for the 'Rendezvous With French Cinema' which aims to expand the audience for French film in a market that is dominated by local product.

The French film festival opens in Mumbai on Jan 27 before travelling to Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.

French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont will officially open the event, which is supported by the French Embassy in association with Unifrance. Expectations are high that French president Nikolas Sarkozy, currently on a state visit to India, will also attend.

The delegation will be headed by Pathe chairman Jerome Seydoux and also includes Unifrance vice president Marie Masmonteil, Roissy Films CEO Raphael Berdugo and Oscar-winning director Claude Lelouch.

Among the films to screen at the event are Asterix At The Olympic Games, Azur And Asmar, The Stone Council, The Science Of Sleep, Caramel and Crossed Tracks.

Almost all the films have already beenbought by Indian distributors and will see a commercial release in the following weeks.

'The films have been acquired on a minimum guarantee and profit-sharing basis,' said French Embassy audiovisual attache Mohamed Bendjebbour. 'The evolution of tastes and increase in multiplexes has helped encourage French producers to consider India as a potential market.'

Foreign films currently have a tiny 4% share of the Indian market, most of which is taken by US blockbusters, but Unifrance has worked hard over the past five years to increase interest in French film. Last year, March Of The Penguins had a relatively successful run in India after being dubbed by local star Amitabh Bachchan.

In order to encourage Indian buyers, the French Embassy offers incentives such as subsidising the cost of dubbing and participating in premieres.

France has a fully-fledged film office operating out of the French Embassy to promote French cinema in India and Indian cinema in France (through Cannes and premieres of some Indian films in France such as Veer Zaara).

During the course of the festival, Indian film personalities are expected to be awarded with various French honours in an effort to recognise their contribution and excellence.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is slated to receive the Officer dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters).