Romauld Karmakar, Ron Howard, Annette K. Olesen, Vinko Bresan and Manuel Gutierrez Aragon have seen their latest films chosen by The Berlinale to play in its official Competition - a full two months before the festival starts (5-15 Feb, 2004).

The initial five films, which run the gamut from tragic love story amd intimate family saga, to political psychodrama and historical thriller, demonstrate that the 2004 line-up will be a "a versatile programme, both in theme and style," according to festival director Dieter Kosslick.

The five Competition films so far chosen are:

In Your Hands (Forbrydelser) (Denmark)
Dir: Annette K. Olesen
A sensitive study about an encounter between a young woman pastor, who works in a women's prison, and a prisoner, who is trying to cope with her guilt. The drama, made according to the Dogme rules, is Olesen's follow-up to Minor Mishaps, which won her the Blue Angel award as best European film in Berlin in 2002. In Your Hands is produced by Zentropa veteran Ib Tardini and will be released by Nordisk Film in Denmark on Jan 23. The cast includes Danish stars Ann Leonora Jorgensen and Trine Dyrholm.

Nightsongs (Die Nacht Singt Ihre Lieder) (Germany)
Dir: Romuald Karmaka
An intensely atmospheric love tragedy, inspired by the successful play by Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, the film was shot at the Babelsberg Studios and stars Frank Giering, Anne Ratte-Polle, Manfred Zapatka and Marthe Keller.

Your Next Life (La Vida Que Te Espera) (Spain)
Dir: Manuel Gutierrez Aragon
A tragic love and family saga set in a remote rural area, it stars Juan Diego, Marta Etura, Luis Tosar and Celso Bugallo. It is the sixth time Gutierrez Aragon has participated in competition; he won the Silver Bear for best director in 1977 with Camada Negra.

Witnesses (Svjedoci) (Croatia)
Dir: Vinko Bresan
Based on the bestseller The Plaster Sheep by Jurica Pavicic and set against the backdrop of the war in Yugoslavia, the film has already won numerous prizes in Bresan's native Croatia and was submitted as that country's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar.

The Missing (US)
Dir: Ron Howard
Based on Thomas Edison's novel The Last Ride, starring Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones. In a mixture between thriller and Western, the film depicts a painful father-daughter conflict when a young woman is forced to team up with her detested father to pursue the culprits who kidnapped her daughter.

Meanwhile, growing pressure on the Berlinale's finances has meant that the festival will not be in a position to cover the accommodation costs of the members of the FIPRESCI jury, and the market badge for access to the European Film Market is being increased from Euros 190 to Euros 200.

At the 2003 Berlinale, the general accreditation fee for film industry professionals doubled from Euros 25 to Euros 50 and will stay at this level for the next festival. Press accreditation stays pegged at Euros 30.