‘Premiere Nights’ to present 120 films and a Golden Athena

Rejuvenated and boasting a plethora of films on its schedule, the ninth Athens International Film Festival, known as «Premiere Nights,» kicks off today. Featuring more than 120 short and long feature films, as well as a tribute to Jean Cocteau, among others, screenings will take place at the Attikon Renault, Apollon Renault Filmcenter and Danaos cinemas. According to festival director Christos Mitsis, this year’s events feature two novel elements: the strengthening of the popular «American Independents» and «Panorama» sections, and the establishment of a new award (besides the one awarded by the public). The newly established Golden Athena award (which will be accompanied by a 5,000-euro cash prize) will be presented by a 15-member judging committee made up of 18- to 25-year-olds. Competing for the award will be films in the two categories mentioned above. The festival’s opening gala presents Wolfgang Becker’s critically acclaimed «Goodbye Lenin.» Set in East Germany, the film follows the story of an abandoned wife who becomes a prominent Communist Party figure in 1979. When she comes out of a coma a decade later, her children decide to hide from her the fact that everything has changed in their country. The director will be present at tonight’s premiere, scheduled to take place at the Athens College theater. Other highlights include Sofia Coppola’s 2003 «Lost in Translation,» in the American Cinema section; Piotr Trzaskalski’s «Edi» (a powerful portrait of a Polish man) in the Panorama section; Mel Stuart’s «Wattstax» in the Music and Film section (making its European premiere, the documentary records the 1972 LA Memorial Colosseum concert, billed as the «black Woodstock») and Michael Negreponte’s «Sightseer» in the Greeks of the Diaspora section, in which the Greek-American director reflects on New York City after 9/11. The festival will close with Stephen Norrington’s «League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,» starring Sean Connery. Also part of the festival are tributes to Brazilian cinema and French surrealist Jean Cocteau.

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