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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 14:40 GMT
Berlin reaches for the stars

Denzel Washington's The Hurricane is up for a Golden Bear

Hollywood's finest will rub shoulders with Europe's top film-makers with Wednesday's opening of the Berlin Film Festival.

Leonardo DiCaprio will be promoting his new film The Beach alongside co-star Virginie Ledoyen, while Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Cruise and Al Pacino are among other big names scheduled to be there.

Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro, Jeanne Moreau and Matt Damon are also due to visit the event's new home at the rebuilt Potsdamer Platz.

Tom Cruise: Globe winner for Magnolia
The organisers hope the new venue - a business and entertainment area built on the site of the Berlin Wall - will help to raise the profile of the festival, which competes with Cannes and Venice for attention.

The Beach, directed by Danny Boyle, is among 21 films competing for the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear, which will be awarded on 20 Feburary.

They also include The Hurricane - Norman Jewison's study of wrongly-imprisoned boxer Rubin Carter - for which Denzel Washington won best actor in last month's Golden Globe awards.

Tom Cruise's latest film, the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed Magnolia, is also in competition. Cruise won a best supporting actor prize at the Golden Globes for his efforts.

Mr Ripley stars Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow
Also nominated is Oliver Stone's American football tale Any Given Sunday, starring Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz, and The Talented Mr Ripley - British director Anthony Minghella's latest film, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

These Hollywood blockbusters face an eclectic range of films from around the world.

European flavour

Notable entrants include Macedonian director Ljubija Samardzi's film Sky Hook, about Nato's 1999 bombing of Belgrade, Spaniard Agusti Villaronga's The Sea, and The Road Home, by Chinese film-maker Zhang Yimou.

Hundreds of other films will also be shown as the festival celebrates German cinema past and present, kicking off with the first showing of director Wim Wenders' The Million Dollar Hotel on Wednesday.

The film - co-written by U2 frontman Bono - is set in Los Angeles and was made in the US, and festival director Moritz de Hadeln said it exemplified the closer relationship between European film-makers and their Hollywood counterparts.

Berlin favourite: Robert De Niro
"There are more and more European directors working in the United States without their films becoming American films, retaining that European touch," he said.

French actress Jeanne Moreau will be given a lifetime achievement award after a special screening of her 1966 film Mademoiselle, and there will also be a tribute to Robert De Niro.

It will be De Niro's fourth visit to the Berlin festival. His first, in 1979 to promote The Deer Hunter, drew protests from Eastern Bloc countries.

Organisers hope the festival's new venue will demonstrate how much Berlin - and Europe - has changed since then.

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See also:
03 Feb 00 |  Entertainment
DiCaprio's Beach premieres
08 Jan 00 |  Tom Brook
Denzel's Hurricane stirs controversy
25 Dec 99 |  Tom Brook
The talented Miss Paltrow
05 May 99 |  Entertainment
Berlin loses its cultural cool

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