For the first time in its 43-year history, the Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF) is set to become an annual event from this year. The festival, which will run July 19-29, is also launching a market focusing on European and Russian product.

The MIFF has previously been held every two years, despite continued efforts by various festival administrators to run it every year. This year's festival will feature a FIAF-sanctioned international competition, a Panorama section, a comprehensive overview of the latest features from Russia and the CIS and a selection of retrospectives and special events.

Up to 50 European production companies are expected to attend the market which is being supported by EUREKA.

Greek director Theo Angelopoulos has been confirmed as head of this year's MIFF jury while celebrity guests are expected to include Steven Segal, William Friedkin, Tommy Lee Jones, Billy Zane, Philip Noyce, Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney. Russian director Gleb Panfilov will open the festival with his new $12m production The Romanovs.

Nikita Mikhalkov will continue as president of the festival for the second year while general director Renat Davletyarov, who joined the festival administration as executive director in 1995, will serve his second year as general director in 2000.

The festival has suffered since the end of the Soviet system from a constant turnover in top management. This is the first festival since 1991 where the same team has been in place for two years in a row.

Davletyarov said: "You can't have a stable team when the festival takes place only every two years. That's why one of our main goals was to ensure that the festival became an annual event."

The Russian government provides $1.3m of the festival's $2.5m budget with private sponsors including Nestle and Baltika Breweries making up the rest.

"Our main interest to bring important films to Moscow," said Davletyarov. "These films should reflect new tendencies in world cinema. The competition will screen 16 to 18 features in accordance with FIAF regulations."