The 26 films in Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick's Competition line-up are, he acknowledges, "quite a different mix".

But, he says, political issues run like a central theme through many of the Competition line-up films - but love, relationships, passion and unrequited love are also topics.

Kosslick also argues that the Competition "has two focuses this year - South Africa on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of freedom after the end of apartheid - and Latin America in recognition of the outstanding films coming from that continent such as Fernando Solanas documentary, Daniel Burman's Lost Embrace and the Columbian film Maria Full Of Grace."

He could also have added that his selection is so wide in terms of styles of film-making that the usual analysis by nationalities is meaningless.

Germany, which had arguably been over-represented in the first two years of Kosslick's reign, this year has two films, both by adventurous and individual talents: Fatih Akin with Head On and Romuald Karmakar with Nightsongs.

Kosslick told that he would have liked to have a third local title in the line-up, but pointed out that there are a total of 56 German films in various sections of the Berlinale.

France has four - one each from veterans Patrice Leconte (Intimate Strangers) and Eric Rohmer (Triple Agent), one by Cedric Kahn (Red Lights) and one by newcomer Stephane Vuillet, whose first film 25 Degrees In Winter is set as the festival's closing film.

The UK has two. While both are arguably about integration themes Ken Loach (with Edinburgh set Ae Fond Kiss) and John Boorman (South African-set The Country Of My Skull) could hardly be more different.

The same is also true of the trio of US films that grace the competition. One, The Missing, is a studio-distributed Western, another The Final Cut, a sci-fi thriller by a Lebanese-born first time director; the third Before Sunset, Richard Linklater's sequel to romantic drama Before Sunrise.

Film buffs finally get a chance too to see veteran auteur Theo Angelopoulos' long-awaited The Weeping Meadow, the first instalment of his Greek trilogy.

If national labels count for much it is notable that there is no film from Japan, China, India, Mexico or Brazil, all countries whose stock has been on the rise of late. Eastern Europe, points out Kosslick, "is not so well represented this year."

One of the things that gives him greatest satisfaction is that of the 23 films showing in competition, 19 are world premieres." I am really satisfied with the line-up. The pushing forward of the Oscars nomination and ceremony dates was more of a programming problem than a film problem. We have not suffered under a lack of quality or range of films on offer."

He also noted that the new films by Walter Salles and Abbas Kiarostami had been destined for the Competition or a Special Screening and there had been a film on Salvador Allende invited for the Panorama but they had been snatched away by Cannes. "Evidently they find our programme very good in Cannes," he quipped.