Austrian filmmaker-producerBarbara Albert has stepped down from Locarno FilmFestival's International Jury "to prevent any discussion about theindependence of the jury" after a local newspaper suspected a cover-up bythe festival about Albert's involvement in the screenplay for Andrea Staka's Das Fraeulein, the only Swiss film in this year's OfficialCompetition.

In an official statement,the festival said that "when the film was submitted to the festival as aworking print, there wasn't any indication of the collaboration by BarbaraAlbert. When the festival was informed of her involvement, there was agreementwith the approvalof all of the jury members that Barbara Albertwouldabstain from voting regarding Das Fraeulein."

While the film's postersdisplayed around Locarno and the Swiss producer Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion's press books include Albert's name asscript collaborator, the festival's catalogue and website had declined tomention this credit either on the page for Das Fraeulein or Albert's biography as jurymember, a state of affairswhich had possibly led the local newspaper toconclude that a conflict of interests was being hushed up by the festival organsiers.

Moreover, Albert's role asco-screenwriter on Staka's film is also mentioned inher biography of the press book for her third feature film Fallen, which is showing in competition in Venice next month. Albert was also a co-screenwriter on theGolden Bear winner Grbavicaand Michael Glawogger's Slumming.

In the press book to Das Fraeulein, which some festival-goers havesaid is one of the stronger titles of this year's International Competition,Andrea Staka recalls that in Barbara Albert and MarieKreutzer she "found two wonderful Austrian writer/directors who supportedmy vision and wrote new drafts of the script. With a fresh look and lots ofsensitivity, they deepened the characters and strengthened the story.Especially important were our discussions on the mise-en-sceneof the film; the script was supposed to be a basis for the shooting, but theactual directing played the important role."

The Official Competitionjury which will announce the winners of the Leopards on Saturday evening is nowdown to five people from the original seven after the French actress Emanuelle Devos also had tocancel her attendance in Locarno at the beginning of the festival because of personalreasons.