The 26th edition of the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival opened Oct. 17 with dozens of stars and celebs from Japan, Asia and elsewhere walking the green carpet (made from recycled materials to symbolizes the fest's eco theme) and greeting hundreds of fans and media at the nearby Roppongi Hills Arena.

Among them were helmer Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks, pictured above with Japan Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, in Japan with their Somali pirate drama "Captain Phillips," the fest's opening film. It will open in Japan on Nov. 28. On stage at the Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills theater, a relaxed Hanks said that when he first met the real-life Phillips, the captain of a container ship who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009, "he was just wearing socks and pajamas. That's when I knew I was right for the role."

Abe's appearance at the fest was a surprise, and he jokingly referenced Hanks' famous line in "Forrest Gump" that "life is like a box of chocolates" but soon struck a serious note, saying that Japan is "pursuing a new economic policy" with content creation as an engine of growth. "We want to send out more and more wonderful Japanese content into the world," he said.

Competition jury chairman Chen Kaige also referred to the "chocolates" quote, noting that "you never know what you're going to get" in the 15-pic section.

Also on hand for the opening were Sofia Coppola, whose pic "The Bling Ring" unspools in the Special Screenings section, and father Francis Ford Coppola.

The Tokyo fest is scheduled to run nine days to Oct. 25, with nearly 300 pics set to screen in all sections, including Asian Future, dedicated to up-and-coming Asian helmers; World Focus, which offers films from major fests that do not distribution deals in Japan; and Japanese Cinema Splash, presenting local indie films.


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