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Locarno Film Festival looks to the future

Festival president Marco Solari (right) and artistic director Irene Bignardi present the 2005 line-up

(Keystone)

The president of the Locarno Film Festival, Marco Solari, says the departure this year of artistic director Irene Bignardi will mark the end of an era.

But in an interview with swissinfo he said he was optimistic about Locarno’s future on the tough festival circuit, despite the lack of big names and blockbuster films.

Both Bignardi and her deputy Teresa Calvina are leaving after five years together at the helm of Locarno – a partnership which Solari says has strengthened the festival. Bignardi’s successor is due to be announced after the event finishes in August.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the festival announced a slimmer line-up for 2005, which was attributed to a difficult production year in the film industry. The international competition has only 15 entries this year.

Among the big names scheduled to attend are director Wim Wenders, who will be getting a Leopard of Honour, and actor John Malkovich. The retrospective will be devoted to legendary film-maker and actor Orson Welles.

The Federal Culture Office has announced that the government will continue its financial contribution to the festival, to the tune of SFr3.6 million ($2.8 million) over the next three years.

swissinfo: What are you thoughts on this year’s festival?

Marco Solari: It will be like it is every year - a successful festival, as all the signs are there. It’s Irene Bignardi’s last and we have a retrospective which is really incredible, the Magnificent Orson Welles. I think Locarno will fulfil all expectations.

swissinfo: What are your most abiding memories of five years of collaboration with Irene Bignardi?

M.S.: In 2000 when I got the telephone call from Irene Bignardi from Rome, saying she would accept the artistic directorship of the festival – that was the best moment.

Everyone said I wouldn’t get her, so I started, in a manner of speaking, using seduction tactics. And like with every seduction, she let me wait. Until one day I was on a tram in Zurich and got that telephone call. This was a great emotional moment for me, also because I felt that it was the beginning of five intense years of excellent work together.

Of course there have been moments of tension and misunderstanding. But I have to say that we haven’t wasted any energy on internal struggles and perhaps this has been the strength of the last five years of the festival.

swissinfo: Do you think that this has anything to do with the fact that there are so many women on the team?

M.S.: I had to adapt to this. I was used to much more hierarchical relationships - with men it’s like that, relationships are much clearer.

With women it’s different. It’s been said that men will never understand women. I had to learn that I couldn’t simply issue orders and commands. I had to be "softer" and more elaborate and [I learnt] that often the way of asking was more important than the request itself.

swissinfo: [Swiss director] Marc Forster’s film was not allowed in Locarno by the distributors for commercial reasons and American blockbusters are not being shown due to fears over piracy – does this worry you?

M.S.: Yes, a lot. Festivals were once marketing tools but this is no longer the case, so what are they now? A meeting of film lovers, a reawakening of love for the cinema, the rediscovery of films which would otherwise not get shown because they are not commercial enough. All this also makes sense. But it’s true that opening a film at a festival is almost no longer possible because of film piracy.

swissinfo: What are your hopes for the future of the festival?

M.S.: [I want it] to become stronger, to at least maintain the position we have today. We will never be a festival like Cannes, Berlin or Venice, we are too small, the town is too small. But we want to be a very special festival, one which is talked about throughout the world.

swissinfo-interview: Raffaella Rossello and Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

The festival runs from 3-13 August.
15 films from 13 countries will take part in the international competition.
13 films from 9 countries will be shown on the main screen in the Piazza Grande.
There is 1 Swiss film in the international competition.

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In brief

Marco Solari has been president of the Locarno Film Festival since 2001.

Before that he was head of Ticino's Tourist Authority and was involved in the official celebrations for Switzerland's 700-year anniversary.

He has also worked as managing director of the Federation of Co-operatives Migros and was vice-president at editorial group Ringier.

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