Tonight is the kickoff of the Eighth International Film Festival of Athens, recently dubbed Opening Nights, which will take place at the Attikon, Apollon and Danaos 1 and 2 cinemas until September 19. The event, organized in cooperation with Cinema magazine, will feature three international and seven European premieres. Special guests include Gaspar Noe – a French filmmaker who made an impression this year at the Cannes Film Festival with the disturbing «Irreversible,» starring Monica Bellucci – Canada’s Jeremy Podeswa with «Touch;» the producer of the Argentinean film «Mi Suegra es un Zombie,» Jorge Dyszel; Polish director Przemyslaw Reut with «Paradox Lake;» director of «The Slaughter Rule» Alex Smith and Greek diaspora directors Eleni Ambelakiotou and Vilka Tzouras. Special tributes include one on the French 1930s filmmaker Jean Vigo with screenings of all four of his films, and another to Canada’s Guy Maddin with showings of «Tales from the Gimli Hospital,» «Archangel,» «Careful,» «Twilight of the Ice Nymphs,» «Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary,» «Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight» and «Guy Maddin: Short Films.» The focus country will be Mexico this year, while a new section, titled Prick Up Your Ears, will include, among others, Michael Winterbottom’s «24-Hour Party People» and a new copy of «Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars» with David Bowie. Just as every year, the two most popular categories of the festival are American Independents and Panorama. The first section features 15 films, mostly by emerging artists, seven of which will be making their European premiere in Athens. Among them is Gus Van Sant’s «Gerry» and John Sayles’s «Sunshine State,» which has been bought by Greek distributors and will be shown at mainstream movie theaters this season. The Panorama section will showcase 16 movies by established and emerging artists who have either been honored or awarded at international film festivals. Highlights include «Bloody Sunday» by Paul Greengrass (Golden Bear in Berlin); «Heaven» by Tom Tykwer, starring Cate Blanchett and with a screenplay by Krysztof Kieslowski; «Happy Times» by Zhang Yimou; «Once Upon a Time in the Midlands» by Shane Meadows, and «Morven Callar» by Lynne Ramsay. The Special Screenings section will present avant premieres of this year’s most anticipated films: Christopher Nolan’s «Insomnia,» with Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, and «Possession» by Neil LaBute, with Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as the Greek film «The Cistern» by Christos Dimas. Opening Nights offers a 6,000 euros cash prize to the audience’s favorite film. Tickets for each screening cost 5 euros and a full pass costs 50 euros. More information on the daily screening schedule is available at the website www.aiff.gr.