Olivier Père’s debut as director of the Locarno Film Festival in 2010 was marked by a radical reshape of the programme. This year also promises not to disappoint.
Père tells swissinfo.ch about his vision for the festival and how he has managed to persuade Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and other big names to attend.
The festival, which is in its 64th year, starts on August 3 in the Ticino lakeside resort. Among the highlights are Cowboys & Aliens by Jon Favreau, featuring Ford, Craig and Olivia Wilde. But Père is also showcasing independent films and there is a nod to the history of cinema as well.
swissinfo.ch: How did you chose this year’s crop of films?
Olivier Père: At the beginning there are always ideas, wishes and goals, but by the end you inevitably have surprises, as well as good or bad luck.
Starting work early and having good contacts with directors and producers allows us to plan our programme with an eye on the film release dates,. There’s also the discovery part, the fruit of our travels all over the world and to different festivals. Each year brings real finds, some of which we have the pleasure of showing at Locarno.
swissinfo.ch: This year you have brought Hollywood stars and blockbusters to Locarno. How did you win the trust of the Americans?
O.P.: By going to meet the bosses of the major film companies, as well as marketing and publicity chiefs, from Los Angeles to London, and by working closely with US film distributors in Switzerland. This has been going on since I started at the festival and has certainly been strengthened by the very positive media reviews about last year’s event. So not only were blockbusters offered to Locarno, but also actors and directors - as is the case with Cowboys & Aliens.
swissinfo.ch: US cinema is not just blockbusters. What can you tell us about the independent scene?
O.P.: It exists and it’s very lively. There is a strong US presence at Locarno this year, in all its richness and diversity. US cinema is not just popular film. There are new young independent directors in two of the competitions - the International and the Filmmakers of the Present - who really took my breath away. Locarno is also paying tribute to two giants of US independent cinema: producer Mike Medavoy and director Abel Ferrara.
swissinfo.ch: The International Competition has a lot of French films.
O.P.: We have worked hard to make a solid International Competition, which gives space to discoveries, young directors and first works, as well as to established independent names such as Shinji Aoyama, Mia Hansen-Løve and Nicolas Klotz. I like this rich combination.
There are four French films, which is rather exceptional. But this was a really good year with many talented directors. I would have liked to have invited all of them, but I had to make painful choices to maintain the balance.
There are also some “UFOs”, as I call them, eccentric works, such as the documentary on Romanian animation.
swissinfo.ch: There are also lots of prizes being awarded this year to big names.
O.P.: We wanted to give plenty of room to honours and this year this is especially true. Although we want to concentrate on films, we have reduced the number to give them more visibility. This has freed up space for cinema’s movers and shakers. I am really happy that Isabelle Huppert is coming and am honoured by Abel Ferrara’s presence. And there’s the sensational Claudia Cardinale. We want Locarno’s public to share in cinema’s magic.
swissinfo.ch: And Swiss cinema?
O.P.: Swiss films are well represented at Locarno as we want to offer it a good platform. There is a promising new generation of filmmakers, like [Fernand] Melgar and [Lionel] Baier. But there are also surprising works, such as the science-fiction film Hell, which we’ll see on the Piazza. Swiss cinema is much more rich and varied than you think. But I still think that documentaries are its strong point, and these are well represented this year.
swissinfo.ch: Let’s move on to India, which is the focus of the Open Doors section. Why India and what’s going on there apart from Bollywood?
O.P.: Bollywood doesn’t need Open Doors to promote it because it’s already powerful enough. Locarno is opening its doors to independent Indian films which are finding it hard, especially because of Bollywood.
But the aim of Open Doors is not to show films, but to support film projects. We have chosen 12 this year. It’s a very concrete programme which is being followed closely. Often finished projects make it to Locarno one or two years later. This continuity between projects, filmmakers, producers and festivals is very important.
Festival in numbers
It’s the 64th Locarno Film Festival, which is being held from August 3-13.
260 works are being shown: around 200 films and around 60 short films and including around 40 world premieres. 32 works are Swiss.
20 films are being shown on the Piazza Grande huge screen on Locarno’s main square. It starts with Super 8 by J.J Abrams and ends with Et si on vivait tous ensemble (And If We All Lived Together) by Stéphane Robelin.
20 films are in the International Competition, including 14 world premieres and three first works.
3 lifetime awards: Claudia Cardinale, Claude Goretta and Bruno Ganz; 3 special awards: Leopard of Honour to Abel Ferrara, Excellence Award to Isabelle Huppert, Best Independent Producer Award (Premio Raimondo Rezzonico) to Mike Medavoy.
It’s the second festival for Frenchman Olivier Père. Before that he was managing director of the Directors’ Fortnight, a prestigious independent section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Vincente Minnelli retrospective
The festival will be holding a comprehensive career retrospective on the late Oscar-winning American director Vincente Minnelli. It includes film screenings and a round-table on his career.
Festival director Père says that he is one of the greatest directors of all time and that seeing his films again, whether the musicals or psychological melodramas, is very worthwhile.
Minnelli died at the age of 83 in 1986. He was married to Judy Garland and his daughter is actress and singer Liza Minnelli.
(Adapted from Italian by Isobel Leybold-Johnson)