Still in its infancy, this year’s 5th Rome International Film Festival looks set to be the most ambitious and diverse yet. With 146 carefully selected films, the emphasis is very much on independent and multi-cultural cinema.

Opening the festival will be Last Night, a marital drama from Iranian director Massy Tadjedin starring Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes. The film will be one of 16 competing for the Marc’Aurelio Jury award for best film. Other pictures vying for the top prize include Rabbit Hole directed by John Mitchell starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, and Oranges and Sunshine, the first feature film from Jim Loach, son of legendary director Ken Loach.

There is also a wealth of talent to look out for in the films that are not in competition. After a ten-year hiatus, John Landis returns to the big screen with the world premiere of his new feature film, Burke and Hare.

Martin Scorsese’s new TV Series Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi, makes its debut with an exclusive screening of the pilot episode. Olivier Assayas’ much talked about film-TV series, depicting the life of ‘Carlos the Jackal’ makes its cinematic debut in the form of a cut-down 165-minute presentation, some 155 minutes shorter than the original version that screened at Cannes earlier in the year.

Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic, La Dolce Vita returns home to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Marking the occasion, the Italian Film Foundation has produced a digitally restored version of the original and will be showing it throughout the duration of the festival.

The Marc’Aurelio Award for best documentary sees 12 very different nominees battling it out for the prize. These include Cameron Yates’ The Canal Street Madam, Floris-Jan van Luyn’s De Regenmakers and David Aronowitsch and Staffan Lindberg’s Facing Genocide: Khieu Samphan and Pol Pot.

There is also a special treat for fans of Asian cinema as this year’s Focus Section turns the spotlight on Japanese cinema and culture. As well as screening some of the most influential Japanese films from the past, there will be several Japanese themed exhibitions taking place in the Italian capital.

The climax of the spotlight will be a special event dedicated to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in the centenary of his birth where a restored version of his 1950 masterpiece Rashomon will be screened.

A few highlights:

My name Is Khan: Starring Shah Rukh Khan, the Tom Cruise of Bollywood, Karan Johar’s film tells the story of an autistic Indian Muslim living in America. Following the events of 9/11, he wakes up one morning to find that his girlfriend has left him. He embarks on a Forrest Gump style journey across America in search of her.

Bhutto: Focusing on reconstructing the complicated story of the Bhutto dynasty, Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara’s film is a powerful documentary which outlines the history of modern Pakistan since its independence from India in 1947.

Carlos: After screenings at various festivals Olivier Assayas’ ‘Carlos the Jackal’ biopic has been trimmed for the big screen but promises to be a fascinating, if violent, depiction of one of the world’s most famous assassins.

Burke and Hare: John Landis’ comeback feature is a black comedy based on a true story. Set in the 19th century, the film follows two grave robbers, Burke and Hare, played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, who realise there is a lucrative business in providing an Edinburgh medical school with dead bodies.

Pete Smalls is Dead: Alexandre Rockwell has gathered together a who’s who of Independent cinema for his latest offbeat comedy. In a road-trip style feature, the film follows a group of friends who attend an old acquaintance’s funeral only to find there is more to his death and than they first suspected.

Ritratto di mio padre: On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Ugo Tognazzi’s death, in remembrance of one of the greatest Italian actors of the Twentieth century, there will be the premiere screening of the documentary directed by Maria Sole, Tognazzi’s daughter.

Perfect Blue: Paying tribute to Japanese director Satoshi Kon who recently passed away, his feature Perfect Blue, the first psycho-thriller in the history of Japanese animation, will be a popular choice in the Japanese Focus section.

Una vita tranquilla: One of four Italian pictures in the running for best film. Claudio Cupellini’s film, starring Toni Servillo, tells the story of man whose violent past behind finally catches up with him fifteen years later.

Dog Sweat: Secretly filmed by the political refugee Hossein Kesharvaz in Teheran and funded by US money, this highly original film explores the lives of six young Iranians as they struggle to satisfy their private desires in the face of a conservative Islamic society.

Oranges and Sunshine: Jim Loach’s first feature film tells the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham who uncovered the terrible truth about the forced migration of children from the United Kingdom to Australia during the 1940’s and 1950’s.

The festival runs from 28th October to 5th November.