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The European Film Awards, the continent's version of the Oscars, will today pit international art-house names Pedro Almodovar and Ken Loach against German newcomer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

The ceremony in the Polish capital of Warsaw will combine the glitzy and highbrow in a celebration of the finest of Europe's movie industry.

Almodovar's Volver has six nominations.

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The comical drama is shortlisted for best European film, the Spaniard is up for best director and his star Penelope Cruz for best actress.

Almodovar is also nominated for his screenplay exploring the ties between mothers and daughters, adultery and incest, murder and cover-ups across three oddball generations.

His cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine and composer Alberto Iglesias are also shortlisted.

"I think the smart money has to go on Almodovar," said Scott Roxborough, a European cinema expert from the Hollyword Reporter.

"His film is the one that's been seen by the most people, because it's been released most widely," he said.

"It's also the only film that's been nominated that doesn't have a political subtext."

Almodovar received the best European-film award, as well as the director and screenplay prizes, in 2002 for Talk to Her. He also won the best film prize in 1999 for All About My Mother.

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Hot on Almodovar's heels is Britain's Ken Loach, who won best film in 1991 for Riff-Raff and 1995 for Land and Freedom.

Loach is shortlisted for best film for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, his hard-hitting story of two brothers during Ireland's 1920s struggle for independence from Britain and ensuing civil war.

"Ken Loach is very respected and he's also more European in some ways than Almodovar," said Roxborough.

"For his financing he usually goes to four or five European countries, which means he's actually worked with various people who are going to be voting. The film has been well received."

Loach is also up for best director, and colleagues Barry Ackroyd and Paul Laverty for the cinematography and screenplay.

Star Cillian Murphy has two shots at the best actor award: for his role in Loach's film, as well as in Breakfast on Pluto, directed by fellow Irishman Neil Jordan, which was nominated for best film.

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Almodovar and Loach have been in competition through the year.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Volver took best screenplay and best actress awards for Cruz and her three co-stars, while Loach won the top prize, the Palme d'or.

But both could face a tough race against the The Lives of Others ( Das Leben der Anderen), 33-year-old Henckel von Donnersmarck's drama about former East Germany's Stasi secret police.

"It's a dark horse," said Roxborough, noting that the movie had received as many nominations as Volver, including best film.

"It's a different style of film. It's mainstream, a political thriller, from a first-time director," he said.

Henckel von Donnersmarck is also shortlisted as best director and screenwriter, while his homegrown stars Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Muehe are up against Hollywood names Cruz and Murphy. Composers Gabriel Yared and Stéphane Moucha were also nominated.

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The other best-film nominations are the The Road to Guantanamo by Britain's Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, and Grbavica, by Jasmila Zbanic, which tackles the harrowing subject of war rapes in Bosnia and which won the top Golden Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

The academy will also present a lifetime-achievement award to director Roman Polanski.

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