The 2nd Chungmuro International Film Festival in Seoul opened last night with some of South Korea's biggest stars in attendance and the screening of Japanese director Shinji Higuchi's Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess.

Local stars that climbed the red carpet included Jang Dong-gun, Ha Ji-won and Kim Jung-eun. Asian stars in attendance with films in the festival included Japan's Chizuru Ikewaki and Hong Kong's Lau Ching-wan. Sean Penn was a last-minute cancellation after he changed plans to visit New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

The opening ceremony that included musical numbers was dominated by a lengthy series of political speeches, including a surprise video message from Korean president Lee Myung-bak, before the belated start of opening film.

Hidden Fortress, a respectful remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1958 original, was an apt choice to open a festival that focuses on archival films. Launched ten years after the country's more established film festivals, the $4m-budgeted event has found its own niche that resulted in a 78% audience capacity last year.

This year's edition introduces an international competition for 'classics of the future' comprising 13 narrative features receiving their South Korean premiere. The five-member jury is headed by Michael Cimino, fulfilling a promise to organisers to attend after missing last year's screening of his western Heaven's Gate.

Among this year's 172 films, up from 147 last year, there are large tributes to Korean maverick director Jang Sun-woo and to Cannes ' Directors Fortnight as it celebrates its fortieth birthday. A retrospective of Asian thrillers includes a small focus on Taiwan's 'black movies' with a new print of Tsai Yang-ming's 1981 Woman Revenger.

The event runs Sept 3-11 in the Seoul district of Chungmuro, the historical centre of the Korean film industry.