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BERLIN (Reuters) - The 2011 Berlin film festival opens on Thursday with Oscars darling "True Grit" kicking off the 10-day cinema showcase, where hundreds of movies vie for the attention of the world's media and industry buyers.
The Coen brothers' Western remake is already out in North America and so is not eligible for prizes at the closing ceremony on February 19, but it should ensure Hollywood glamour on the red carpet at Berlin's glitzy opening ceremony.
The story of a young girl's quest to track down her father's killer, starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, has garnered 10 Academy Award nominations, second only to "The King's Speech."
The 61st Berlin festival boasts its trademark mix of familiar faces and up-and-coming film makers, and, as usual, real world concerns are never far from the surface.
The spotlight on Thursday is likely to fall on the absent Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who was invited to be on the jury but who was sentenced in December to six years in prison.
Panahi, whose film "Offside" won the festival's Silver Bear award in 2006, has been banned from making films or traveling abroad for 20 years.
"His conviction violates the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of art," the festival said. Five of his films, including Offside, will be screened during the event.
On Friday, "Margin Call," the debut feature of J.C. Chandor, promises to bring the drama of the 2008 financial crisis to the big screen, with Kevin Spacey and Demi Moore the big names performing in the Wall Street thriller. Also early on in the festival are two pictures focusing on the experiences of people living in dictatorships.
In competition, Paula Markovitch's directorial debut "The Prize" tells the story of seven-year-old Ceci who carries the burden of a "huge secret" in order to protect her family from repression under Argentina's military regime.
And outside the main competition lineup, "The Devil's Double" stars Dominic Cooper as the body double of Uday Hussein, the widely feared son of former Iraqi leader Saddam.
This year the festival aims to promote 3D, with the premieres of Wim Wender's 3D dance film about choreographer Pina Bausch and Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" about prehistoric paintings in France.
In competition is French director Michel Ocelot's "Tales of the Night," a 3D movie using silhouette animation introduced by Berlin director Lotte Reiniger almost a century ago.
British actor Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut "Coriolanus" is also in competition. Fiennes, nominated for Oscars for his roles in "The English Patient" and "Schindler's List," plays the title role in the Shakespeare adaptation.
As well as premieres and showbusiness parties, Berlin runs a major film market where buyers and sellers meet on the sidelines of the festival in search of distribution and production deals.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Philippa Fletcher