The Berlin Film Festival opens on Thursday with a gala screening of Snow Cake, starring Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman.
The festival runs for 10 days
The film, a drama about a British expatriate in Canada, is one of 19 movies competing for the festival's Golden Bear top prize.
Celebrities expected to attend the festival include George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Vin Diesel.
Films from 56 countries will be showing during the 10-day event.
Veteran US director Sidney Lumet will be showcasing his latest mafia film Find Me Guilty starring Diesel, while Robert Altman will screen A Prairie Home Companion.
Both films will be shown in competition, alongside British director Michael Winterbottom's The Road to Guantanamo.
Festival organisers recognise this year's crop of films have a gritty edge to them.
"The films this year are overall very political, very close to reality... directed toward people's problems, with less fantasy," said festival director Dieter Kosslick.
British actress Charlotte Rampling is heading the festival's jury, choosing and announcing the winner of the Golden Bear on 18 February.
Other jury members include India's Yash Chopra, South Korean actress Lee Young Ae and US artist Matthew Barney, the husband of singer Bjork.
Last year's winner was the South African film Carmen in Khayelitsha, directed by Mark Dornford-May