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The 60th Berlin Film Festival opens with the spotlight likely to be on the latest movie by controversial French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who is at present holed up in his Swiss chalet fighting extradition to the US.

Launched amid the turmoil and destruction in Germany following the end of the Second World War, the Berlinale kicks off later Thursday with the premiere of Chinese director Wang Quan’an’s “Tuan Yuan” (Apart Together), a love story set against the conflict between Taiwan and mainland China.

But the festival’s public relations coup in securing the premiere of Polanski’s political thriller “The Ghost Writer” means that his movie is likely to take centre stage at the festival while the director cools his heels under house arrest for a 1970s case resulting from the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

Even if the 77-year-old Polanski is not present for the movie’s Berlin launch, “The Ghost Writer’s” all-star cast, including Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, is expected to be in the German capital for the film’s screening.

The Berlinale normally brings a touch of glamour to Berlin during the bleak winter months.

This is especially the case this year with the festival having launched a mass action in the run-up to Thursday’s opening to try to clear the accumulation of ice from the streets around the Berlinale’s main venues after weeks of snow and sub-zero temperatures.

This year’s competition for the Golden Bear, which is to be awarded at a gala ceremony Feb 20, includes 18 world premieres and three debut features.

Independent directors in the festival’s 60th anniversary main competition seem to outweigh more well known names.

The festival line-up includes acclaimed independent film-maker Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg”, which tells the story of a middle-aged American man opting out of urban life. Legendary US director Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” will also be featured.

Starring Leonard DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, “Shutter Island” is a psychological thriller set in the early 1950s, just as the Cold War was getting started.

Also in town for the 10-day Berlinale are likely to be top-liners Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Penelope Cruz and Julianne Moore.

The guest list includes France’s Gerard Depardieu and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who is set to attend the premiere of his latest movie “My Name is Khan”, one of India’s most anticipated films this year.

Another Berlinale guest who might not be seen in public is the notoriously elusive British street artist Banksy, whose debut film “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is to be screened in Berlin.

Now one of the world’s top film festivals, the Berlinale has developed a reputation for showcasing films with a conscience, screening productions which have hard-edged political and social themes.

This includes the premiere of Romanian director Florin Serban’s “Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier” (If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle), the story of a young man facing life outside a reform school.

Iranian-born Rafi Pitts also returns to the Berlinale this year with a drama “Shekarchi” (The Hunter) about a man who, seeking revenge for the death of his wife and daughter, kills two policemen.