Berlin: Europe's first major film festival of the year, the Berlinale, kicked off Thursday with jury president Juliette Binoche welcoming an unprecedented line-up of female directors.
The 11-day event prides itself on being the most politically engaged of the A-list cinema showcases, presenting 400 movies from around the world, most on hard-hitting topical themes including rising extremism and economic exploitation.
French Oscar winner Binoche, 54, is leading a six-member panel choosing the winner of the prestigious Golden and Silver Bear prizes, to be awarded at a gala ceremony on February 16.
Last year, with the #MeToo movement against abuses of power roiling the industry, the innovative docudrama "Touch Me Not" about sexual intimacy by Romania's Adina Pintilie clinched the top honours.
For the first time this year, seven out of the 17 contenders are women (more than 40 per cent) share that eclipses rivals such as Cannes and Venice, which have come under fire as chummy men's clubs.
The top festivals have long faced pressure to boost their female representation as they serve as gatekeepers to international distribution, awards and box office cash. Binoche welcomed the more diverse selection, saying it was long overdue and sent a message beyond the world of cinema.
"I think that's a good step forward, 10 years ago was not like that," she told reporters. "Open minds -- it's a good sign." British producer, director and actress Trudie Styler, 65, who is also on the jury, said the Berlinale had long championed films by under-represented groups but that this year's line-up was "not only courageous but a big step forward"....