Tokyo film fest flies with 'Flags'

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The 19th Tokyo International Film Festival opened during the weekend with 15 films competing for the Sakura Grand Prix.

Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" opened the nine-day extravaganza Saturday night, with actors James Bradley and Adam Beach representing the face of the U.S. military in the World War II epic alongside Japanese actors Ryo Kase, Kazunari Ninomiya and Tsuyoshi Ihara.

The stars received the traditional red-carpet treatment at the Roppongi Hills main venue for the festival, though Eastwood was conspicuous by his absence. Films also will be screened in the Shibuya district of the city.

As in previous years, Tokyo opened literally hours after the curtain fell on the highly successful 11th annual Pusan International Film Festival.

National rivalries are never far below the surface in matters involving Japan and South Korea, and Tokyo is hoping to put on a show to upstage its Asian rival.

There will be more than 100 screenings during the festival, with opening night also seeing the world premiere of "Love and Honor," a samurai tale directed by Yoji Yamada and starring local heartthrob Takuya Kimura.

Yamada, best known for directing the vast majority of the long-running "Tora-san" movies, said he was "very happy and thankful" that his work had been singled out to be shown on the first night.

Japan's fascination with South Korea's movie output also was in evidence, with female fans singling out Lee Joon-Ki, star of "King and the Clown," for a special welcome. The film has received huge acclaim at home, winning 10 South Korean academy awards.

Nearly 40 films from the region will compete in the "Winds of Asia" category, with a special focus on productions from Malaysia.

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet heads the three-member jury and will name the winner of the top prize Sunday.
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