Berlin International Film Festival chief Moritz de Hadeln appears to be rapidly firming up the Official Competition section for the festival's fiftieth anniversary edition (Feb 9-20).

While de Hadeln will as usual not confirm Golden Bear contenders until close to the event - this year, Feb 1 - titles likely to compete at the birthday bash include Laetitia Mason's Love Me, being sold internationally by France's Flach Pyramide International; Lucio Gaudino's Prime Luci Dell'Alba, being represented by Italy's Intrafilms; and Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's The Island Tales, being sold by TF1.

Competition slots are also expected to go to Signs And Wonders, a Greek-set, English-language love story directed by the US' Jonathan Nossiter and represented by France's MK2 Diffusion; Agustin Villaronga's El Mar, about a friendship in a 1947 tuberculosis sanitorium, which is being sold by Gemini; and Francois Ozon's highly-anticipated Water Drops On Burning Rocks, represented by the newly merged Roissy Films-Celluloid Dreams. Roissy-Celluloid is also handling Alexander Proshkin's epic Pushkin adaptation, The Captain's Daughter, which is also likely to compete.

Germany is expected to have Rita's Legend, by Volker Schloendorff, in competition. Further contenders appear to be The Talented Mr Ripley, by the UK's Anthony Minghella, and Magnolia, from the US' Paul Thomas Anderson. Local press reports have Berlin favourite Milos Forman returning to the competition with Man On The Moon.

Unusually for a documentary, Julien Temple's The Filth And The Fury is heading for an official selection slot, but is understood not to be in competition.

Among the films expected for this year's Panorama programme are Agnieszka Holland's The Third Miracle, starring Ed Harris and Anne Heche, who are expected to attend; Conor McPherson's Saltwater; Mahesh Mathai's Bhophal Express; and Yoichi Higashi's The Crossing. Also expected are Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau's Drole De Felix; Sam Karmann's Kennedy And I; Pepe Danquart's Heimspiel; Jochen Hick's No One Sleeps; Sylvia Chang's Tempting Heart; Terence Gross' Hotel Splendide; Masato Harada's Kinyufusyokuretto Jubaku; Gerardo Vera's Second Skin and Diego Donnhofer's The Virgin.

Expected to be in the International Forum of Young Cinema are Austrian filmmaker Ruth Beckermann's study of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, titled Ein Fluechtiger Zug Nach Dem Orient; Yuji Nakae's drama Nabbe No Koi (Nabbie's Love); James Benning's portrait of California's Central Valley, El Valley Centro; German documentary filmmaker Ebbo Demant's Wueste, which mounts a journey through deserts on three continents; and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's tragic love triangle, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight From The Heart).

Claire Denis' Beau Travail is tipped as a potential opening film for the Forum, while Claire Devers' La Voleuse De Saint Lubin is also likely to screen in the same section.

British film-makers are also expected to hit Potsdamer Platz, the centre of the re-united city and the festival's new home, with Danny Boyle's The Beach and Kenneth Branagh's Loves Labours Lost, although these are expected to screen out of competition. Another interesting addition is likely to be Italian comedy La Capa Gira, which is understood to be performing sensationally around the Bari region but is in a local dilaect that even other Italians find tricky.

Additionally, films from Iran, Russia, Finland, Germany, Canada and Australia are among the 12 feature films and 11 shorts selected to compete in this year's Kinderfilmfest during the fiftieth Berlinale. The features include Nicholas Kendall's Mr Rice's Secret (Canada), Gita Mallik's Sherdil (Sweden), Vincent Bal's Man Van Staal (Belgium), Albert Hanan Kaminski's Petterson And Findus (Sweden/Germany), Ella Lemhagen's Tsatsiki, Mama And The Policeman (Sweden/Norway/Denmark), Majid Majidi's The Colour Of Paradise (Iran), Miguel Albaladejo's Manolito Gafotas (Spain), Rassul Sadr Ameli's Dokhtari Ba Kafsh-Haye-Katani (Iran) and Filip van Neyghem's Blinker (Belgium). The Kinderfilmfest will also host a special screening of Maria Peters' Kruimeltje (Netherlands/Belgium).

Adam Minns in London and Francoise Meaux Saint Marc in Paris contributed to this report