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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 11:06 GMT
Chicago kicks off Berlin festival
Richard Gere in Chicago
Richard Gere is among the movie elite visiting Berlin
The Golden Globe-winning Chicago is to launch the 53rd Berlin Film Festival on Thursday.

Stars Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere will be there for the film's Berlin première.

The prestigious festival - also called the Berlinale - will this year feature more than 300 films from all over the world in a mix of Hollywood glamour and politics.

Hollywood stars including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Ed Harris will attend the festival this year.

The Berlinale takes place amidst the build-up to next week's Oscar nominations.

In This World
Michael Winterbottom's In This World is a Golden Bear contender
But the festival's director, Dieter Kosslick, said he wanted the festival to reflect international issues and not just ape American award ceremonies.

The festival's Panorama and Forum section will this year concentrate on films about the Middle East.

"It cannot always be about champagne and kiss-kiss," Mr Kosslick said.

Twenty-two films are this year competing for the festival's main prize, the Golden Bear, judged by a seven-member voting panel led by Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

The award will be handed out on 15 February.

International flavour

Movies competing for the Golden Bear include Steven Soderbergh's remake of the sci-fi film Solaris, featuring George Clooney, and Spike Jonze's Adaptation, tipped for Oscar nominations.

Clooney's directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, is also shortlisted.

Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper will work with young film-makers

Michael Winterbottom's In This World, about Afghan refugees trying to reach Britain, is the only UK contender.

The shortlist has an international flavour with films from Slovenia, Japan, Senegal, Australia and the Netherlands also on the list.

The festival is also offering 500 young film-makers a chance to work with the acclaimed German director Wim Wenders and the actor Dennis Hopper.

The Berlinale is regarded as the first major event of the year for the European film industry.

Last year the Golden Bear award was shared between Bloody Sunday, starring James Nesbitt, and Japanese film Spirited Away.

In 2001 it was won by the controversial French film Intimacy.

See also:

05 Feb 03 | Entertainment
31 Jan 03 | Entertainment
20 Jan 03 | Entertainment
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18 Feb 02 | Entertainment
11 Feb 02 | Entertainment
06 Feb 02 | Entertainment
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