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New movies starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst will compete for the top honors at this year's Berlin International Film Festival against offerings from Iran, Tunisia, the Philippines and elsewhere

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BERLIN — New movies starring , and will compete for the top honors at this year's Berlin International Film Festival with offerings from Iran, Tunisia the Philippines and elsewhere, with presiding over the jury that will choose the winners.

Eighteen movies are in contention for the Golden Bear prize at the first of the year's major European film festivals. In its 66th edition this year, it runs Feb. 11-21. The typically diverse program was presented by organizers Tuesday.

It's hard to pin down any single overarching theme, but festival director Dieter Kosslick said many movies at this year's event address "the search for happiness" and "migration in the world in very varying forms."

The competition features two documentaries — Gianfranco Rosi's "Fire at Sea," about the Italian island of Lampedusa, where many migrants arrive in Europe, and U.S. director 's "Zero Days," on Internet surveillance.

Theater director 's movie debut "Genius" stars Firth, Kidman and in a look at Max Perkins' time as book editor at Scribner, overseeing work by Thomas Wolfe and among others. Also premiering in Berlin is ' science-fiction thriller "Midnight Special," featuring Dunst and .

The festival opens on Feb. 11 with the Coen brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" Stars including and are expected in Berlin, where the comedy is screening out of competition.

Berlin prize-winners have been notoriously unpredictable over the years, with less prominent productions often picking up honors. This year's field includes an epic historical drama from the Philippines, ' "A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery," and the debut film from Tunisian director Mohamed Ben Attia, "Hedi."

Last year's Golden Bear went to Iranian dissident filmmaker 's "Taxi," starring the director — who was officially banned from filmmaking — as a taxi driver.

This year's competition features two offerings from Iranian directors, though neither movie has such issues: 's "A Dragon Arrives!" and Paris-based ' "Soy Nero."

A seven-member jury led by first-time festival juror Streep will announce the winners of the festival's Golden Bear and various Silver Bear awards on Feb. 20.

PHOTO: Director of the International Film Festival Berlin, the Berlinale, Dieter Kosslick poses for media as he attends the annual program press conference in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The Berlinale runs from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)
Director of the International Film Festival Berlin, the Berlinale, Dieter Kosslick poses for media as he attends the annual program press conference in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The Berlinale runs from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)

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