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New Locarno festival director outlines programme policy

Irene Bignardi says the sole criterion for screening a film at Locarno festival remains quality Keystone Archive

The new artistic director of Locarno film festival - Switzerland's biggest - has pledged to introduce what she describes as "more coherent programming" to the annual event.

In her first interview since taking office, Irene Bignardi said: “The festival has a good reputation in the film world and is appreciated by the public. My principal mission will to discover new movies and their creators, and to present them at Locarno.”

Bignardi conceded that last year’s loss-making festival would lead to some constraints on this year’s, which takes place in early August.

But she added that the festival itself should not undergo major changes, because this would risk losing its appeal among professionals, the cinema-going public and the local population.

“As far as I’m concerned,” she said, “the event’s slogan remains valid: the smallest of the big film festivals and the biggest of the small ones.”

Her plans include a streamlining of the programme of open air screenings in Locarno’s main square, the Piazza Grande, with films entered for competition all being given equal treatment.

She is hoping for more world premières in the Piazza Grande, attended by leading films in the film world.

Bignardi is totally opposed to the introduction of quotas in the programming, for example to favour Swiss movies in the face of the domination of American productions. “The sole criterion is quality,” she said.

A journalist and film critic, Italian-born Bignardi has been attending the Locarno festival since 1968 and was a member of the competition jury in 1998.

She says that apart from improving the programming, her ambition is to clarify the festival’s identity. “The overall aim remains the same,” she said. “It should offer an excursion into the world of cinema.”

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR