Pan-American films are to be at the heart of a new festival in Zacatecas, only Mexico's second festival of international standing.

In what is seen as a development year, the first Zacatecas International Film Festival will be held in October (20-25) in a former silver mining town in the centre of the country, north of Mexico City. In following years the organisers hope to switch to the event to the more comfortable month of June.

The event is being started "in an effort to promote the most recent manifestations of filmic art and to stimulate development of new projects and talent," said festival director Susana Lopez Aranda.

Aranda was previously a director of the country's best-known festival Guadalajara and is currently deputy director of international distribution at IMCINE, Mexico's state-backed film finance body.

The festival will boast a competition of pan-American films "by first- or second time directors from Canada to Brazil", a sidebar of current Mexican films and a selection of shorts that will be eligible for a jury prize. Working with Robert Redford's Sundance Institute - whose own accompanying Sundance Film Festival is also held in an old mining town, Park City - Zacatecas will also present a screenplay prize.

Public sector funding for the festival is being committed by the state government, its cultural and tourism secretariats. IMCINE is expected to pitch in too. And private sector sponsorship is now being sought.

Lopez Aranda said: "this is a great opportunity to show off the shoots of renewal in Mexican cinema. Production is down from 70 films a year ten years ago, to about a dozen now. But we have an excellent crop of new directors."