CULTURE

Curtain to rise on Opening Nights

Athens’s annual Opening Nights international film festival is about to kick off once more. Running for the 12th consecutive year, this time the agenda features 136 full-length and short films from recent international production but also some past classics. As Christos Mitsis, the festival’s director, pointed out at a recent press conference, what is important is to make daring choices in the program. The festival will be on at the Attikon, Apollon and the Danaos 1 and 2 cinemas from September 20 to October 1. The official premiere will take place with the first screening in Greece of «Volver.» In Pedro Almodovar’s latest production, a recently deceased woman returns as a ghost to the city in which she lived to help her daughters with their problems. «Volver,» which was selected for distinction at the recent Cannes Film Festival, stars Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas. Less than a fortnight later, the Opening Nights festival will end with «Paris je t’aime,» a compilation of different short love stories, all of which focus on and are set in the city of Paris and bear the signature of 20 directors. Many well-known directors have participated in the production, such as the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Walter Salles, Gus Van Sant and Alexander Payne. There are 15 films that are to participate in the competition section, which will be judged by a committee of 18- to 25-year-old film and drama school students from various European countries. The committee will award the Golden Athena, the festival’s main prize. Indie films The «Panorama» section will include 11 of the most interesting recent worldwide productions, while the «Independent Americans» section will feature seven films from powerful American independent cinema, including «Little Miss Sunshine.» The Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris comedy, about a family which travels across America on a bus so that their young daughter can enter and win a little girls’ beauty pageant, managed some success at the American box office. The film stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell and Toni Collette. Apart from Davis Guggenheim’s much-discussed «An Inconvenient Truth,» about politician Al Gore’s campaign against global warming, Giorgos Avgeropoulos’s «Delta» will also be screened in the documentaries section. The «After Midnight» section, which has many fans, will offer six horror films this year. The festival will also screen a Greek premiere, Philippos Halatsis’s «Brutal,» a low-budget production like last year’s «Evil.» Other sections that are an established part of the festival are «Cinema to the Extreme,» with films distinguished by their originality or their radical sense of aesthetics, «Greeks of the Diaspora,» which presents the work of artists of Greek descent living abroad, as well as «Music and Film,» with productions focusing on music. The «Special Screenings» section will feature four productions: Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 «Battle of Algiers,» Nicolas Roeg’s 1970 «Performance,» Vera Chytilova’s 1966 «Daisies,» and finally John Frankenheimer’s 1966 «Seconds.» Highlights in the popular premieres include Brian De Palma’s «The Black Dahlia,» Michael Mann’s «Miami Vice» and Aki Kaurismaki’s «Lights in the Dusk.» «The Black Dahlia,» which is inspired by the case of a real unsolved 1940s murder of a young woman in Los Angeles, is based on a novel by James Ellroy and focuses on the efforts of two cops to crack the case. The crime drama stars Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart. «Miami Vice» is a remake of the hugely popular 1980s TV series of the same title, which follows the lives of two detectives. Actors Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell play detectives Ricardo «Rico» Tubbs and James «Sonny» Crockett respectively, while the movie further features Naomie Harris and Justin Theroux. Kaurismaki’s drama «Lights in the Dusk,» set in Helsinki, tells the story of a night watchman who gets in trouble after meeting a seductive woman. Comedy Another production featuring in the «Premieres» section is Jason Reitman’s «Thank You for Smoking,» a comedy about a top executive in the tobacco industry who successfully promotes the joys of smoking but tries to be a role model for his young son at the same time. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, William H. Macy, Katie Holmes, Adam Brody and Cameron Bright. Two tributes set the tone in this year’s festival: One is to relatively young Japanese filmmaker Toshiaki Toyoda and the other is to Preston Sturges, a filmmaker whose work has influenced artists like the Coen brothers, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. New copies of seven of his films will be screened at the tribute, some of them for the first time. «Queer Cinema,» the underground cinema movement which started off in the 60s, features prominently in this year’s festival with 15 films. Screenings will include John Cameron Mitchell’s «Shortbus,» which caused an uproar at the recent Cannes Film Festival. And last but not least, the tribute to German cinema has selected six of the latest more important German productions, such as Matthias Glasner’s «Freie Wille» (The Free Will). Tickets cost 6 euros per screening, but one can also issue a card, valid for 24 screenings, for the price of 16 euros. For further information, log on to www.aiff.gr.