Tokyo fest rolls out red carpet


TOKYO -- The 20th annual Tokyo International Film Festival kicks off with an opening reception today and begins in earnest Saturday night with a red-carpet event that officially launches the nine-day event.

The opening film, the premiere of Shochiku/Universal Japan co-production "Midnight Eagle," tells the story of a stealth bomber that goes missing in the mountains of northern Japan. Directed by Izuru Narushim and starring Takao Osawa, Yuko Takeuchi and Hiroshi Tamaki, it was made with the help of the Japanese military.

The closing film, "Silk," is a collaborative venture of Japan, Italy and Canada. Directed by Francois Girard, "Silk" is the story of a married silk trader who is drawn to a mysterious Japanese woman from a nobleman's court. Set in Japan and based on a novel by Alessandro Baricco, it stars Keira Knightley, Michael Pitt, Miki Nakatani and Koji Yakusho.

A jury of six, led by Alan Ladd Jr., will select the winner of the festival's main competition, the $50,000 Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix, as well as a $20,000 Special Jury Prize.

This year, TIFF is centered around the Toho Cinema complex at the base of the towering Roppongi Hills development, where the TIFFCOM film market also will run Monday through Wednesday, and at Bunkamura in Shibuya.

Running parallel to TIFF from Saturday to Oct. 28 is the Akihabara Entertainment Festival, which will turn the whole of Tokyo's electric-town area into a venue for anime, manga and gaming events.