The 22nd Mar del Plata Film Festival will kick off Thursday with plans to show more than 300 features and shorts.

The major addition to this year's edition is a Latin American competition reserved for 16 first and second features and documentaries, most making their world premieres. They will compete for the Ernesto 'Che' Guevara cash award of $50,000.

In his fifth and final year as Argentina's main festival director, renowned film-maker Miguel Pereira told that he will announce during the event the details of a new initiative 'inspired by Rotterdam's Hubert Bals Fund' to support and finance young Latin American directors.

An impressive list of 80 local shorts and features will have their premiere during the 11-day festival. Gustavo Postiglione's La Peli, about a film-maker's breakdown, and Hernan Gaffet's tango dramedy Ciudad en Celo will screen in the main competition.

Latin America's only FIAPF classified A-level festival, Mar del Plata will give its Golden Astor awards to veteran Italian director Mario Monicelli, local producer Lita Stantic, Oscar-winning musician Gustavo Santaolalla, and actresses Norma Aleandro and Hanna Schygulla. The festival will also host a gala tribute to the late local directors Fabian Bielinsky and Eduardo Mignogna.

Iranian Jafar Panahi, French Bruno Dumont and Spanish Cesc Gay are among the foreign directors who will be presenting their new films at the resort city. International companies and agencies such as Les Films du Losange, Latido, Nostro Films and European Film Promotion will also also be actively participating at the festival.

This year's festival focus and retrospectives are dedicated to Aardman Animations (with David Sproxton and Peter Lord presenting the company's works), London Film School, Afro-American cinema with Charles Burnett (also president of the official jury) as curator, and selections of films from the Maghreb and recent Italian production.

The $1.8m film festival sold a record 150,000 admissions last year and Pereira hopes to surpass that figure with the 2007 edition.

The Mercosur Film Market, which ran parallel to Mar del Plata Film Festival in its first two editions, will be organised by the local film institute (INCAA) in Buenos Aires later this year.

Instead, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film (BAFICI) will stage its first international film market, Inter Cine, at the ninth edition (April 3-15). The market will bring together international buyers, distributors and producers and will include specialist-led talks on sales rights, international festivals, co-productions and financing. Film agency BASet will promote the advantages of filming in Argentina, from varied landscapes to low costs.