Art and Experience: Marco Mueller and Elvis Mitchell are expected to be among the international names fronting a major new film festival in Macau.

The Special Administrative Region of China is a former Portuguese colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and has rapidly grown to become the world’s casino capital.

The International Film Festival Macao is to hold its first edition December 8-14 this year. It will be operated with the backing of the Macau government’s bureau for film, part of its Social Affairs and Culture department. A formal announcement is expected in mid-March.

The festival will largely be housed at the Macao Science Center, with market screenings likely taking place at the MCL multiplex complex located within the Galaxy Macau Resort.

Mueller, who was previously director at the Locarno, Venice and Rome festivals, is poised to be announced as festival director. Mitchell, the noted critic and programmer, is to be its U.S. selector.

For its first edition, the festival will be capped at 45 titles, and include galas, a competition and a thematic sidebar. Commercial and genre films from around the world are expected to feature prominently.

The December dates are intended to allow executives to make an easy transition from the CineAsia convention and trade show in neighboring Hong Kong (Dec. 6-8, 2016) to the new Macau event.

The festival will operate on a budget of some US$10 million, substantial enough for organizers to provide full hospitality to film delegations and to key media from the Asian region. The majority of the finance is to come from the Macanese government, with a commercial sponsorship picking up the rest of the tab.

Mueller, who has recently also been associated with both the Beijing and Silk Road festivals in China, will make the IFF Macao his main job, but also with a one semester per year teaching role in Switzerland. His recent film selecting roles at the Beijing and Silk Road festivals in China are understood to have come to an end following government restrictions on competitive events on the mainland.

Macau, which has its own jurisdiction, currency and legal system, may offer an environment that is somewhat more liberal than China proper.

The territory is keen to develop industries other than gambling and to put on a more family-friendly, entertainment driven face.

Among the other measures being considered to develop the movie industry are the establishment of a film commission and a financial incentives system.

The SAR has been the setting for movies including Johnnie To’s “Exiled,” and “Vengeance” and Pang Ho-Cheung’s “Isabella” and the Pang-scripted “SDU: Sex Duties Unit.” Parts of “Skyfall” and “Johnnie English Reborn” were also shot there.