Festival holding place open for Panahi; Berlinale Special screenings to include Late Bloomers, The King’s Speech, Toast.

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan [pictured] and Oscar-winning production designer Sandy Powell have been named as members of the International Jury, headed by Isabella Rossellini, which will be deciding on the winners of the Golden and Silver Bears and Alfred Bauer Prize in the Competition at next month’s Berlinale.

Festival director Dieter Kosslick has also invited Australian producer Jan Chapman, German actress Nina Hoss – who won the Silver Bear for her performance in Christian Petzold’s Yella in 2007 – and Canadian director Guy Maddin.

In addition, the festival is holding a place open in the jury for the imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi to signal its support for his struggle for freedom.

Meanwhile, the festival organisers have unveiled the lineup for the Berlinale Special which is part of the Official Programme.

Four of the selected films will be presented in gala screenings at the Friedrichstadtpalast.

They include the world premiere of Julie Gavras’ Late Bloomers, starring International Jury president Isabella Rosselini, William Hurt, Joanna Lumley and Simon Callow; and the international premieres of Susanne Rostock’s documentary about Harry Belafonte Sing Your Song, and of Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige’s Sacrifice (Zhao Shi Gu Er).

In addition, this section will provide a launchpad for the German premiere of Tom Hooper’s multi-BAFTA-nominated The King’s Speech which Senator Film Verleih will be releasing into German cinemas on Feb 17. Stars Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter and director Tom Hooper will be attending the gala screening in Berlin.

This timing of this gala screening will doubtless be coordinated with the BAFTA ceremony so that key talent are available to come to Berlin before trekking over to LA for the final stretch of the film’s Oscar campaign.

Last year Dieter Kosslick had invited Rob Marshall’s Nine for a Berlinale Special slot ahead of its German theatrical release – again by Senator – as a “60th birthday special”, but none of the stars or even director Marshall managed to make the journey to Berlin to promote their film – much to the chagrin of the festival director!

Another four films have been selected for this sidebar to screen at Berlinale Special’s other venue, the Kino International near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet, who was in Competition in Berlin with Elegy, My Life Without Me in 2008 and in the International Jury the following year, is back with the world premiere of her documentary Escuchando al Juez Garzon, while the festival will pay its respects to the late Mario Monicelli by showing his 1982 film Il Marchese del Grillo which won him the Silver Bear for Best Director that year.

In addition, this section will show the international premiere of Gianni di Gregorio’s The Salt Of Life and the German premiere of SJ Clarkson’s feature debut Toast, based on the novel of the same name by the renowned UK food writer and TV chef Nigel Slater. Toast was aired on BBC Television as part of the Christmas 2010 schedule.