Oscar-winning actor and activist Tim Robbins, acclaimed Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (In a Better World) and German director Andreas Dresen are among the group that will chose the winners of this year's Berlin International Film Festival.
Also joining Berlin Jury President Wong Kar Wai in picking the 2013 Berlinale Gold and Silver Bear winners will be Iranian director Shirin Neshat (Women Without Men), cinematographer Ellen Kuras (The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Greek producer and director Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg).
A cursory look over the credentials of this year's jury suggests politics could again be center stage at this year's Berlinale. Robbins is famed for his activism, including speaking out against U.S. military involvement overseas. The subplots of several of Bier's films, including the Oscar-winning In A Better World (2010) but also Brothers (2004) and After the Wedding (2006), is the complicated relationship between the West and the developing world. Neshat's work - both as a artist and in her feature film debut Women Without Men - is a dissection of the history and politics of her native Iran, particularly as it has impacted the status of women. And the bulk of Dresen's films - which include Cannes entries Stopped on Track and Cloud 9 - while never overtly political, are all unflinching examinations of social issues.
Also notable is the female component. A majority - four out of seven - Berlin jury members are women, a first for the festival.
The competition line up for the 2013 Berlin International Film Fest is a typically eclectic one.
Wong Kar Wai's latest, the martial arts drama The Grandmaster, will open the 63rd Berlinale on Feb. 7 running, of course, in an out-of-competition slot.
The bulk of this year Berlin competition line up is made up of European art house features, including the world premieres of Bruno Dumont's period biopic Camille Claudel 1915 starring Juliette Binoche; literary adaptation The Nun starring Isabelle Huppert; Emmanuelle Bercot's On my Way with Catherine Deneuve and An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker from Oscar-winner Danis Tanovic (No Man's Land).
Asia, often in focus in Berlin, is represented by a single competition title, Nobody's Daughter Haewon from Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo (In Another Country) while Iranian cinema will get pride of place thanks to Closed Curtain, the new film directed by Jafar Panahi, who is still under house arrest in Tehran, and co-director Kambozia Partovi.
Among the American films competing this year for Berlin's coveted Gold and Silver Bears are Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects, starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones; David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and Fredrik Bond's feature debut The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman starring Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, all three of which premiered in Sundance.
Eastern Europe, always a focus in Berlin, has a strong representation this year with four competition titles. They include A Long and Happy Life from Russian director Boris Khlebnikov (Roads to Koktebel); the Romanian drama Child's Pose from Calin Peter Netzer (Maria); Harmony Lessons, the debut feature from Kazakhi director Emir Baigazin and In the Name Of, the latest from Polish filmmaker Malgoska Szumowska (33 Scenes from Life).
Three German productions or co-productions are represented in the competition line-up. Gold by Thomas Arslan is pitched as a “German western” set among German emigrants to the U.S. during the gold rush and featuring Nina Hoss, Marko Mandic and Lars Rudolph. Paradise: Hope, an Austrian/French/German co-production is the final feature in the controversial Paradise trilogy from Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, whose Paradise: Love and Paradise: Faith debuted in Cannes and Venice, respectively. Finally, Layla Fourie, a thriller from director Pia Marais (At Ellen's Age) is set in South Africa but set up as a German/South African/French/Dutch co-production and features German star August Diehl alongside Brit actress Rayna Campbell.
Also in the running this year is Vic+Flo Saw a Bear from acclaimed Canadian director Denis Cote (Curling) and Gloria from Chilean helmer Sebastian Lelio (The Sacred Family).
A number of star-studded features will be heading to Berlin to screen out of competition on in one of the Berlinale Special gala slots, including Tom Hooper's Oscar front-runner Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried; Richard Linklater's Before Midnight with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy; Billie August's literary adaptation Night Train to Lisbon with Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurent, Jack Hudson and Christopher Lee and DreamWorks' 3-D animated feature The Croods featuring the voice talent of Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Nicolas Cage.