'Social Network' Opens Tokyo Film Festival


 

Hollywood stars such as Jesse Eisenberg and Shrek ran a gauntlet of 3,200 cheering Japanese fans with TV personality and actress Noriko Fujiwara, as the 23rd edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival got under way under clear skies on Saturday.

David Fincher's The Social Network unspooled at TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills, opening the festival and drawing filmmakers from around the world to what remains, for now, the world's second-largest movie market after the United States.

A stream of 333 official guests dressed in traditional kimono, haute couture and costumes promoting various films, walked the event's green carpet made from recycled plastic bottles.

Many tuxedoed guests sported green bow ties in keeping with the festival's planet-friendly theme, adopted three years ago. A team in chemical protection suits armed with rifles marched down the carpet promoting Breck Eisner's toxic-horror flick The Crazies, due to screen on Thursday, Oct. 28.

The festival, which runs until Halloween, will award $50,000 to the winner of the Grand Sakura prize for best film, a competition of 15 dramas from around the world judged by a jury led by Irish director Neil Jordan, who last visited TIFF with The Company of Wolves in 1985.

Films in competition include three co-productions -- If the Seed Doesn't Die, Sinisa Dragin's film from Romania, Serbia and Austria; The Invisible Eye, Diego Lerman's film from Argentina, France and Spain; and Never Let Me Go, from the U.S., U.K and director Mark Romanek.

Also in competition are four films from Europe: And Peace on Earth, by Italian directing duo Matteo Botrugno and Daniele Coluccini, Brighton Rock by British director Rowan Joffe, Primary by Ivan Noel of Spain and Sarah's Key by France's Gilles Paquet-Brenner.

Jury president Jordan also will judge two films from China: Buddha Mountain by Li Yu and The Piano in a Factory by Zhang Meng; two from Japan: Post Card by 98-year-old Kaneto Shindo and Sketches of Kaitan City by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri; and three from the Middle East: Flamingo No. 13 by Iranian director Hamid Reza Aligholian, Intimate Grammar by Nir Bergman from Israel and Turkish director Belma Bas' Zephyr.

TIFF 2010's one American competition entry is Beautiful Boy, from director Shawn Ku.

Helping add Hollywood glitz to the opening of the nine-day event, Walt Disney Studios Japan was set to host a 30-minute invitation-only screening of Tron: Legacy in 3D, including previously unseen footage.

Kept largely under wraps, the Legacy screening, which was aimed at energizing the Japanese media, echoes TIFF 2009's sneak preview of Avatar. Legacy will release in 3D only in Japan on Dec. 17, the same day it bows Stateside.

Among the other international guests in attendance were Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network, about Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Sorkin apologized for the absence of the director Fincher, who is shooting the Hollywood remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Sweden. Eisenberg quipped that he doesn't use Facebook but Mixi, a popular Japanese social networking service.

Others stars lighting the evening were French actress Catherine Deneuve and Koreans Hur Jin-ho, jury member and director of April Snow, and actress Kim Yun-jin of the ABC series Lost.

"We're aiming for a festival that everyone can participate in and everyone can enjoy," said TIFF chairman Tom Yoda in his opening ceremony remarks. Yoda, 70, was expected to retire at the end of the festival but recently announced he would stay on for another two years.

Akihiro Ohata, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, apologized for the absence of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who had been expected to attend. The appearance of a different prime minister at each TIFF has become something of a running joke in recent years as Japanese leaders have changed so frequently.

Japan's total box office gross in 2009 was 206 billion yen ($2.54 billion), according to the Motion Picture Producers' Assn. of Japan, but China could take the top grossing spot after the U.S. in the next five, with official Chinese estimates showing ticket sales expected to rise to $6 billion by 2015.

Gavin J. Blair and Park Soo-mee contributed to this report.

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