The first batch of films headed for competition in the 45th Intl. Berlin Film Festival was unveiled Jan. 18, with U.S. fare surprisingly well represented.

In all, 27 films – 19 of them world premieres – were announced as entries in the competition program of this year’s fest, which runs Feb. 9-20. Three will screen out of competition.

Robert Redford’s critical fave “Quiz Show” leads the pack, alongside Wayne Wang’s “Smoke” with Harvey Keitel and William Hurt. Wang’s “Blue in the Face,” which features Keitel and Madonna, will be screened out of competition. Both Wang pix are from Miramax. Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, is also in the running.

Despite the strong American presence, however, it is the Germans who dominate the selections. That’s not surprising but it’s nevertheless a signal that fest organizers are looking to boost contemporary cinema here.

Home-grown fare

In addition to Margarethe von Trotta’s “The Promise,” a love story set in the various decades of Berlin’s separation, three other German films are represented. Von Trotta’s film will open the fest, but is not in competition for a prize.

As a group, this year’s competition slate makes only a nominal gesture toward the 100th anni of film itself, an event that will be feted here all year long. Two films, Agnes Varda’s “Les cent et une nuits” (A Thousand and One Nights) and Edgar Reitz’s “Die Nacht der Regisseure” (Night of the Filmmakers), pay tribute to that theme.

Several hot Asian directors also will be competing for the Golden Bear – thanks largely to the diplomatic efforts of festival organizer Moritz de Hadeln. They include Stanley Kwan (“Red Rose White Rose”), Ann Hui (“Summer Snow”/”Xiatian de Xue”) and Im Kwon Taek (“The Taebaek Mountains”). Those Korean and Hong Kong helmers will be challenged by China’s Li Shaohong and her film “Blush” (Hong Fen).

Advance buzz

Critical anticipation is running high for several other titles as well. Alberto Simone’s “Colpo di Luna” (Ladder to the Moon), much ballyhooed at last year’s Mifed, is certain to attract major attention. Crowds also are expected to flock to Michael Winterbottom’s “Butterfly Kiss,” which has hyped itself by refusing to schedule any pre-fest screening. Local buzz is also touting Bertrand Tavernier’s latest effort, “L’appat” (The Bait).

Participants in the Young Film Forum, the section devoted to documentary cinema, were also announced.

Volker Koepp’s “Kalte Heimat” (Cold Homeland), a portrait of the ethnic Germans in the former East Prussia, will bow here, as will German documentarist Christoph Janetzkos’ experimental montage “Vom Fluss – River Colors.”

American Terry Zwigoff will show his “Crumb,” devoted to the obsessive underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. One of the French contributions, Raymond Depardon’s “Delits flagrants” (In flagranti), focuses on the cross-examination of petty criminals in a state prosecutor’s office.

Exports from Havana

Buzz is also high on two Cuban films: Fernando Perez’s “Madagascar” and “Quiereme y veras” (Love Me and You Shall See) from Daniel Diaz Torres.

Additional selections, including short film finalists, are expected in the days ahead. The list of the films announced so far, including director, producer and distributor, is as follows:

North American films:

Quiz Show” (Robert Redford/Hollywood Pictures/Buena Vista Pictures); “Silent Fall” (Bruce Beresford/Warner Bros.); “Smoke” (Wayne Wang/Smoke Prods./Miramax); “Blue in the Face” (Wayne Wang & Paul Aster/Blue Prods/Miramax); “Nobody’s Fool” (Robert Benton/Paramount Pictures/Capella Intl.); “The Addiction” (Abel Ferrara/Fast Films, Denis Hann); “Before Sunrise” (Richard Linklater/Detour Film Prods./Castle Rock Intl.); “El Callejon de los Milagros” (Jorge Fons/Alameda Films & Alfredo Ripstein Jr./Imcine). “When Night Is Falling” (Patricia Rozema/Crucial Pictures & Barbara Tranter/Alliance Intl).

European films:

“Das Versprechen” (Margarethe von Trotta/Bioskop/Concorde); “Transatlantis” (Christian Wagner/Christian Wagner Filmproduktion); “Hades” (Herbert Achternbusch/FTB GmbH/Thomas Kuchenreuther); “Die Nacht der Regisseure” (Edgar Reitz/Edgar Reitz Filmproduktion); “L’appat” (Bertrand Tavernier/Little Bear & Hachette Premiere & Frederic Bourboulon/Concorde); “Les cent et une nuits” (Agnes Varda/Cine-Tamaris and Dominique Vignet/Mercure; “Colpo di luna” (Alberto Simone/Dauphine, Roberta Manfredi, Alessandro Oliviera/Sales Co.); “El rey del rio” (King of the River) (Manuel Gutierrez Aragon/Sogetel, Vincente Gomez/Sogepaq); “Butterfly Kiss” (Michael Winterbottom/Dan Films, Julie Baines/Sales Co.); “Ti kniver i hjertet” (Cross My Heart and Hope to Die) (Marius Hoist/Nordic Screen Development, Petter Borgli/Nordic Screen Development); “Un bruit qui rend fou” (Alain Robbe-Grillet & Dimitri de Clercq/Nomad Films, Jacques de Clercq); “Pjesa dlja Passashira” (The Play for a Passenger) (Vadim Abdraschitov/Ark-Film Studios/MosFilm)

Asian films:

“The Taebaek Mountains” (I.M. Kwon Taek/Taehung Pictures/Lee Tae Won); “Summer Snow” (Xiatian de Xue) (Ann Hui/Golden Harvest, Raymond Chow); “Blush” (Hong Fen) (Li Shaohong/Beijing Film Studio/Fortissimo Film Sales); “Back to Roots” (Ray Leung/Media Asia Films, Ma Fung Kwok/Wellington Fung); “Red Rose White Rose” (Stanley Kwan/Golden Flare Films, Hoi Wong/First Distributors).

Derek Elley in London contributed to this report.

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