Film-maker Nicole Holofcener had a very special reason to celebrate the fact her new Jennifer Aniston movie opened the Sundance Film Festival yesterday (19JAN06) - she started her career at the Utah gathering.

The writer-director's FRIENDS WITH MONEY launched the 2006 festival last night and Holofcener paid tribute to Sundance because she became a movie-maker after attending a writing and directing class there in the mid-1980s.

Holofcener's cult debut, WALKING + TALKING, was developed at Sundance and premiered there in 1986.

She says, "I'm thrilled and petrified about having the opening film this year... Thrilled because I have a history with Sundance, which made this feel special and like a real honour."

The revered indie film festival, which was created by Robert Redford, this year features 120 feature-length movies and dozens of shorts, which will be shown over the next 10 days.

Highlights include new films starring Ashley Judd, Justin Timberlake and Winona Ryder and documentaries about rock legend Neil Young and former talk show host ROSIE O'DONNELL's gay cruise line.