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Hollywood filmmakers compete at Berlin International Film Festival

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04: Director Gus Van Sant (L) and Matt Damon attend "Promised Land" premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on December 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Stephen Lovekin

New movies from directors Steven Soderbergh and Gus Van Sant will be competing this year at the Berlin International Film Festival.

A diverse selection of 19 movies, including films from Kazakhstan and Iran, will vie for the main Golden Bear prize at Europe's first major film festival of the year.

Van Sant's film about the shale gas industry, "Promised Land," starring Matt Damon, and Soderbergh's thriller "Side Effects," featuring Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, are the most prominent U.S. offerings.

From Iran comes "Closed Curtain," directed by dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi and fellow Iranian Kamboziya Partovi. Panahi was sentenced to house arrest in Iran and banned from filmmaking after being convicted in 2011 of "making propaganda" against Iran's ruling system. Festival director Dieter Kosslick said Panahi is no longer confined to his home but still isn't supposed to make films.

Kosslick said Monday that organizers "tried to bring new people who are making films for the first or second time into the program," continuing a tradition of having less-heralded directors rub shoulders with established names.

Last year's Golden Bear went to "Caesar Must Die," by Italy's Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, which showed inmates of a high-security prison staging Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."

The top prize will be awarded by a seven-member jury under Chinese director Wong Kar-wai, whose members include actor-director Tim Robbins. Wong's new movie about two kung fu masters, "The Grandmaster," is screening out of competition and will open the festival.

The Berlin International Film Festival runs from Feb. 7-17.