BERLIN (AFP) - World premieres starring Renee Zellweger, Tommy Lee Jones, Demi Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer will vie with powerful new releases from Iran, China and across Europe at the Berlin Film Festival from Thursday. "The International", a topical thriller about corrupt players in the world of global finance starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts and directed by German film-maker Tom Tykwer ("Perfume"), will open the 59th edition. The Berlinale, as the 11-day event is known, is the first major European film festival of the year and second only to Cannes in prestige. Eighteen productions will contend for the coveted Golden Bear for best picture, to be awarded February 14 by this year's jury president, Scottish actress Tilda Swinton. Berlin is packing high-wattage star power this year, and a range of films tackling themes including the international financial crisis, globalisation, mass migration, war crimes and ethnic strife along with lighter fare. Zellweger is expected in the German capital with "My One and Only" about a glamorous young mother in the 1950s shopping for a rich husband. Jones appears in a supernatural murder mystery set in Louisiana, "In The Electric Mist", directed by France's Bertrand Tavernier, while Moore turns down her glamour-quotient to appear as a woman caring for her ailing father in "Happy Tears". Pfeiffer stars with Kathy Bates as ageing courtesans in "Cheri", directed by Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and based on the 1920 novel by French writer Colette. Hot French film-maker Francois Ozon ("Swimming Pool") will gun for the Golden Bear with "Ricky" about an extraordinary baby, while Britain's Sally Potter sends up the fashion industry in "Rage" featuring Jude Law in drag. And Kate Winslet is expected in town to promote "The Reader", a Holocaust drama based on the book by German novelist Bernhard Schlink which has already won her a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination. "I don't think I'll be alone on the red carpet," festival director Dieter Kosslick joked with reporters. Ashghar Fahradi of Iran will present her latest picture "About Elly" telling the story of an Iranian emigrant in Europe returning home, while festival circuit favourite Chen Kaige will bring "Forever Enthralled", a biopic on China's greatest opera star billed as a visual feast. Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, who made the harrowing drama on forced prostitution "Lilya 4-ever", will unveil his first English-language feature starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams. The German bureau chief for industry trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Roxborough, said the main showcase seemed to have something for everyone. "It's political, it's got a lot of stars, it's got some German elements with Tom Tykwer opening the festival and 'The Reader' screening out of competition," he said. "It does have something to appeal to basically every category " to the tabloids that want to see stars, to the art house cinema freaks, to the mainstream moviegoers who want to see something that could break out from here and become successful outside." Leavened in with the hard-hitting films will be a few special features. Steve Martin will bring the sequel to his comedy caper "The Pink Panther" in which he appears as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. And Davis Guggenheim, known for his Oscar-winning documentary with Al Gore "An Inconvenient Truth", is due to screen an ode to the electric guitar, "It Might Get Loud", at a gala premiere. Kosslick said at least one of the three musicians featured " Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, The Edge of U2 and the White Stripes' Jack White " was likely to turn up at the screening with guitar in tow. The festival will also hand out a number of special prizes including a Berlinale Camera to French master Claude Chabrol ("Wedding in Blood"), a Teddy award for achievement in gay cinema to Andy Warhol muse Joe Dallesandro and an Honorary Golden Bear for French composer Maurice Jarre for his legendary film scores ("Doctor Zhivago"). And in honour of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Berlinale will showcase prescient Cold War cinema that seemed to foreshadow the end of European communism in a series called "After Winter Comes Spring".