Berlinale kicks off with gala Rolling Stones movie premiere

( dpa )- The 58th Berlin Film Festival begins Thursday with a gala opening featuring the premiere of Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese's concert movie celebrating one of the world's greatest pop groups, the Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger along with the rest of the Stones are to join Scorsese and a long list of international stars on the red carpet at what is one of the world's top three film festivals.

"This year the Berlinale will not be excessively political, at least less than usual," said Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick . "But it will certainly be more musical."

A large number of the about 400 films from around the world to be shown during the around 10-day festival will mark career highlights of what are essentially members of rock royalty.

As a result, music icons such as Madonna, Neil Young and Patti Smith will be rubbing shoulders in Berlin with actors such as Eric Bana , Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day-Lewis, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Julia Roberts.

This year's Berlinale also celebrates the musical careers of less well-known figures including films about an Iraqi pop band and the stars of the Argentinean tango scene.

Adding to the star power at this year's Berlin Film Festival will also be Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, with women both as directors and performers also playing a prominent role at the Berlinale .

Tickets for the screenings have already gone on sale with Scorsese's Rolling Stones movie Shine a Light and Om Shanti Om with Shah Rukh Khan proving to be the hot favourites .

More than 20 movies have been selected for the Berlinale's main competition with Greek-born director Constantin Costa- Gavras and his jury announcing the winner of the festival's prestigious Golden Bear at a Hollywood-style award ceremony set down for February 16.

Included in the line up competing for the top awards are movies from Iran, Europe, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, the US and Asia.

Apart from Scorsese's Rolling Stones' documentary, Madonna is expected to whip up a media storm in Berlin with her directing debut, Filth and Wisdom, a comedy about the dreams of ordinary people and starring Richard E Grant.

This year's Berlinale will also mark a series of anniversaries, including the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding and the 40th anniversary of the anti-war movement in the US unleashed by the Vietnam conflict.

The Israeli anniversary also comes at a time of growing international recognition of the country's movie makers, in particular at the world's leading film festivals.

A year after Tuya's Marriage ( Tuya De Hunshi ) from China won the Berlinale's coveted Golden Bear, the Berlinale will also once again showcase new cinema from Asia

This year's lineup includes the world premiere of leading Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai's Zuo You (In Love We Trust), famed Hong Kong-born director Johnnie To's (Man Jeuk ) Sparrow as well as South Korean director Hong Sangsoo's Bam gua Nat (Night and Day).

Japanese director Yoji Yamada's Kabei ( Kabei - Our Mother), starring Sayuri Yoshinaga , Mitsugoro Bando, Tadanobu Asano is also in the running for a Golden Bear.

But as has been in the case with other leading festivals, the war in Iraq again comes under the spotlight in Berlin with the world premiere of Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' movie about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, S.O.P. Standard Operating Procedure.

Carrying the flag at the Berlinale for Central European cinema will be veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda's Katyn , which delves into one of the darkest moments in Poland's history - the massacre of thousands of Polish war prisoners by the Soviet secret service in 1940.

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