Deneuve lights up inaugural San Luis fest

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SAN LUIS, Argentina -- The inaugural Festival Internacional San Luis Cine kicked off over the weekend with a red carpet ceremony and promises of a thriving local industry high in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

Catherine Deneuve, on hand to receive a career achievement award, was the star of the evening. San Luis Governor Alberto Rodriguez Saa -- accompanied by his girlfriend Esther Goris, best known for her portrayal of Argentina's famous first lady in 1996's "Eva Peron" -- handed the Golden Puntano to the French legend during a ceremony that featured music, champagne and fireworks for hundreds of invited guests.

An array of local and international actors were on hand for the opening gala, including Geraldine Chaplin, head of the festival jury, which will award the $50,000 top prize to one of the 22 features in competition Sunday. Chaplin said that she admires San Luis's Cinema Law, which provides $10 million in subsidies to local and foreign filmmakers annually.

"San Luis is like Hollywood at the beginning. You have the good weather, the huge studio. They need some more infrastructure, because that has to come all the way from Buenos Aires, but in time I hope it will grow," Chaplin said.

One of Argentina's best-known actors, Boy Olmi, is one of those benefiting from the expansion. The province's vision of turning itself into a filmmaking destination means that Olmi will get the chance to step behind the lens for the first time next year in San Luis.

"Sangre del Pacifico" (Pacific Blood) will be financed by producer Ricardo Freixa and the San Luis government, which has been criticized in recent years for luring productions away from Buenos Aires with its deep pockets.

"I hope (San Luis) and (Buenos Aires) will come together on this in a friendly way ... because we all belong to Argentine cinema," Olmi said.

Oscar-winning Argentine art director and jury member Eugenio Zanetti also plans to produce a feature next year in San Luis called "Me, Tomorrow" about a family of Argentine artists who visit the past in order to change the future.

"It's an Argentine film, but from my experience living in the U.S. for thirty years, I think it could resonate there too," Zanetti said.

U.S. actress Lucia Brawley is attending the festival in support of the in-competition Hungarian feature "Lora." She got the film's title role after a Hungarian producer saw her host an awards show in Los Angeles.

"Three weeks later I was on a plane to Hungary to carry a film," Brawley said. "Because of that coincidence, I get to be in Argentina. It's amazing."
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