Artistic director Frédéric Maire is facing his penultimate Locarno Film Festival this year – after the 2009 event he leaves for a new challenge in the cinema world.This content was published on July 20, 2008 - 10:17
Maire tells swissinfo that there may be fewer stars, but his Locarno is one where the spirit of discovery still thrives, and where Swiss cinema is beginning to acquire its share of the spotlight.
Maire has presided over Locarno, Switzerland's largest and oldest film festival, since 2005. His new job will be as the head of the Swiss Film Archive, based in Lausanne.
The International Film Festival Locarno runs this year from August 6-16 in southern Switzerland.
swissinfo: Swiss cinema is gaining in strength at Locarno. What is your view on the current scene?
Frédéric Maire: Rather positive. The new film by Lionel Baier – who I really think is one of the greats of Swiss contemporary filmmaking - will be in the International Competition. Ursula Meier's film was part of the International Critics' Week at Cannes. There are many French-speaking Swiss films at Locarno this year, all very diverse. There are also several big Swiss-German films which are very interesting, but which are still in production and won't be ready in time for the festival.
Obviously there can't be big commercial successes and great works every year. Until we have a more solid film industry which has greater financial resources there will always be highs and lows in Switzerland.
swissinfo: Swiss Cinema Day was started at Locarno three years ago. It may be too early for a full assessment of its success, but what has been its impact so far?
F.M.: It can certainly be said that this day has given Swiss cinema visibility, especially among the public. Filmgoers realise that there are quality Swiss films and can be proud of this. But to promote domestic production further, we've decided to restructure the day.
This year will be dedicated to actors - important figures in the Swiss film scene, who really deserve to be highlighted. There are quite a few successful Swiss actor-exports. They are so successful that they then disappear from Swiss films.
swissinfo: How is Locarno situated on an international level?
F.M.: Locarno asserts itself through its identity. It's a festival dedicated to discovery. For me, this year's event is a model on which the bases for future growth can be built: two competitions for finding new talent or confirming emerging talent, the Piazza Grande showing world or international premieres which have a real potential for success, a retrospective dedicated to a living director, and other side elements that the public can discover.
swissinfo: You have brought films back into the heart of the festival and have always aimed for substance over appearances. But can Locarno do without stars, glamour and the red carpet?
F.M.: These are two things that can coexist well and I think that Locarno is a good example of this. It's true that we don't have a red carpet and the jet set. But we have stars who come to Locarno because they appreciate the atmosphere - like Anthony Hopkins, who presented his film to 3,000 people in his shirtsleeves and who could wander around Locarno relatively undisturbed. Locarno does not serve up dinner jackets and champagne.
swissinfo: You are going to leave the festival in 2009. Was it a difficult decision?
F.M.: I didn't take this decision light-heartedly. I knew perfectly well before I accepted the job that it wouldn't be possible to direct the festival for a long time. Times have changed compared with my predecessors. It's a tough, demanding, job, which takes a lot of energy. You have to hurry from one end of the world to the next without stopping and pay attention to thousands of things.
When life suddenly and unexpectedly presents you with a new opportunity, you invariably end up having to choose. Everyone knows how much I love Locarno. I had to make a choice and I accepted the challenge of directing the Swiss Film Archive. But I remain and will keep on remaining close to this festival.
swissinfo-interview: Françoise Gehring in Locarno
Maire's new job
Maire will take up his new post as artistic director of the Swiss Film Archive on November 1, 2009.
The archive contains 70,000 films, two million photographs and 100,000 posters. It is considered one of the most important institutions of its kind worldwide.
Maire, a journalist and film critic, has been in Locarno since 2005. His successor has not yet been chosen.
This year's festival
The 61st Locarno Film Festival will take place from August 6-16.
The giant screen at the heart of the festival on the Piazza Grande is showing 17 films.
There are 17 films in the international competition from 16 countries and there are 40 Swiss films at the festival.
This year's retrospective is devoted to cult Italian director Nanni Moretti, who has made films such as "The Son's Room" (Palme d'Or at Cannes 2001).