Stephen Daldry's The Hours and Spike Jonze's Adaptation are leading the Golden Bear sweepstakes, followed closely by Zhang Yimou's stirring martial arts epic Hero, which was lauded to the skies by some critics but trashed by others.

China was also in the running for a prize of some sort with Li Yang's Blind Shaft, a Ripley-esque moral thriller shot with Dogme austerity, set in the grimy, unregulated world of China's coal mining industry.

Other strongly fancied titles, in what is generally agreed to be one of the strongest competition rosters of recent years, include the Spanish-Canadian hard-edged weepie My Life Without Me (which features a Best Actress contender in Sarah Polley) and the Italian child's-view thriller I'm Not Scared, by Gabriele Salvatores, whose export potential was confirmed when it was snapped up by Miramax for the US.

The home side fielded a likeable, though overlong, comedy drama in Goodbye, Lenin!, which looks set to prove that Tom Tykwer is not the only contemporary German director whose films can travel. Patrice Chereau's uncompromising look at terminal illness and fraternal love, His Brother, stunned some and bored others, while the second of three French entries, Claude Chabrol's The Flower of Evil, generally failed to impress. Though it seems unlikely to enter the prize race, the high camp Dutch musical Yes Nurse, No Nurse provided some much-needed light relief.

In other sections, the increasingly plump Panorama sidebar - with 47 films spread between the main, Special and Dokumente categories - has so far thrown up a well-liked Indian title, A Tale of A Naughty Girl - tipped for the FIPRESCI prize - and a small but entertaining Serbian farce, Jagoda In The Supermarket. While the Macaulay Culkin-starring youth flick Party Monster was mostly panned, the Anglo-American alliance was saved by the British-Canadian co-production Owning Mahowny - a downbeat view of a compulsive gambler, with a convincing Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role.

Among other strong titles were Broken Wings, an Israeli comedy drama with a keen feel for the absurdities of everyday life, which scored a festival coup when Sony Pictures Classics picked up North American rights. In a more arthouse vein, Pater Familias, the choral small-time Mafia drama by first-time director Francesco Patierno proved that the neo-Realist tradition is alive and living in Naples.

One of the strongest US titles that has so far aired outside of the main competition is David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls, a tender, Ken-Loach-lite exploration of the pain and joy of first love set in a small North Carolina mining town. Many felt that this might have played better in Panorama or even in competition; another inexplicable sorting error was Lone Scherfig's Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, one of the strongest films seen anywhere in the festival to date, which was shunted into the "Special Screenings" lucky dip.

By day six, documentaries had not been as convincing as last year's roster, which included the Oscar-nodded Winged Migration. Highlight so far is Traces Of The Dragon: Jackie Chan And His Lost Family which, in telling the story of Kung Fu king Jackie Chan's four "lost" half-brothers and half-sisters in mainland China, manages to lead the viewer by the hand through almost a century of Chinese history. But one much-awaited title, the Spanish Poligono Sur, which focuses on the real world behind the flamenco tourist cliches of Seville's gypsy community, had still to screen.