The 12th AthensInternational Film Festival, otherwise known as Opening Nights Conn-X, kicksoff tonight with the gala presentation of Pedro Almodovar's Volver.

Volverwill be joined in the Premieres section with Brian De Palma's The BlackDahlia, Michael Mann's Miami Vice,Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking,Aki Kaurismaki's Lights In The Dusk, GelaBabluani's 13 (Tzameti), MichelGondry's The Science of Sleep and ToddRobinson's Lonely Hearts.

The 15-title strongcompetition section features such films as Wang Chao's Luxury Car, plus Athens alumni Ryan Fleck with Half Nelson and Andrea Arnold with Red Road, as well as debuts by first-timers Cam Archer with Wild Tigers I Have Known, Cheng Yu-Chiehwith Do Over, Jesper Ganslandt with Falkenberg Farewell and Claudia Llosawith Madeinusa.

The 11-member jury formed byyoung European Union member-countries cinephiles aged 18-25, will award prizesincluding the Golden Athena, which comes with a $9,517 (Euros 7,500) prize.

Special programmes arededicated to contemporary German cinema (presented by Martina Gedeck), QueerCinema and the work of Preston Sturges and Japanese cult film-maker ToshiakiToyoda.

The festival's othertraditional sidebars such as the American Independents, Documentaries and Musicand Film as well as Greeks of the Diaspora carry anumber of impressive titles and directors attached.

The American Independentsselection includes such titles as Richard Glatzer's Quinceanera, Dito Montiel's AGuide to Recognizing Your Saints, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Little Miss Sunshine and Oren Rudavsky'sThe Treatment.

The Documentaries and Musicand Film section includes such widely touted titles as the Al Goreenvironmental plead An Incovenient Truthby Davis Guggenheim, Kirby Dick's ThisFilm Is Not Yet Rated, Chema Rodriguez's Estrellas de la Linea, Sophie Fiennes' The Perverts Guide To Cinema, the Greek production Delta by George Avgeropoulos and JulienTemple's Glastonbury.

The Greeks of the Diasporasection will welcome actor Ben Gazzara, who stars in Dionysius Zervos' debut The Shore. Gazzara also stars in one ofthe segments of the closing film, ParisJe T'Aime.

The festival is held in fourdowntown venues and will screen more than 130 films. Backers include a numberof private and public entities such as the French Institute and Embassy, TV5,the US Embassy, the Zolotas Crysotheque, Flocafe, the Greek Film Centre, the Municipality of Athens and the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs.

Competition Line up

Luxury Car, Wang Chao (China)

Half Nelson, Ryan Fleck (US)

Red Road,Andrea Arnold (UK)

Wild Tigers I Have Known, CamArcher (US)

Do Over, Cheng Yu-Chieh (Taiwan)

Falkenberg Farewell, JesperGanslandt (Sweden)

Madeinusa, Claudia Llosa (Peru)

Free Floating, BorisKhlebnikov (Russia)

The Bothersome Man, Jens Liens (Norway/Iceland)

Bliss, Sheng Zhimin (China)

De Nadie, Tin Dirdamal (Mexico)

Chalk, Mike Akel (US)

The Unforgiven, Jong-bin Yun(South Korea)

Swedish Auto, Derek Sieg (US)

En Soap, Pernille Fischer Christensen(Denmark)