Locarno's outgoing artistic director Irene Bignardi says she hopes hersuccessor will build on the work of the last five years to give the festivalits own unique place in the international festival landscape.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily.com, she diplomatically skirtedthe issue of confirming who her successor would be (the name of Frederic Mairewas leaked to the press earlier this week - see separate story).

However, she commented: "I don't know where his passions lie,but...I would love to see certain aspects of the programme [such as the HumanRights Programme] being continued. I frankly think that the only way forLocarno to have an identity and to survive in terms of a festival persona is tobe different."

"I hope that this line of discovery and cultural engagement willcontinue," she argued. "I think it is the only way for which Locarnocan be a festival in its own right."

Looking at her fifth and last festival as artistic director, Bignardisaid that she had prepared this edition "with the same passion and 'as if'she would be at the helm in 2006. The only difference this time was that I wasnot nurturing an idea for next year's retrospective."

Among her 2005 highlights were the Welles retrospective and the"incredible success" with the Open Doors initiative which sawfilmmakers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia agree to collaborate on the jointplatform of Maghreb Cinemas. "We had a number of very good films in thecompetition and on the Piazza Grande considering what the year was for cinema andwhat our power is in terms of selection," Bignardi noted, givingparticular mention to the opening Piazza Grande film The Rising - Ballad OfMangal Pandey, the Thai film Citizen Dog, and Revel Fox's TheFlyer from South Africa.

The decision to present three Leopards of Honour - to Wim Wenders, AbbasKiarostami, and Terry Gilliam - and three Excellence Awards - tocinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich - were allpart of Bignardi's "final fireworks" to end her tenure of the Locarnopost. However, some festival-goers have been critical of the inflation in thenumber of awards presented nightly on the Piazza, which could be seen asdevaluing their significance or relevance.

As to a life after Locarno, Bignardi says that she will "go back towriting more calmly. I had kept writing during the last five years, but had toget up at 6 o`clock to do it. Now I can do it more at leisure. In addition, Iwill teach at the university and, then...I will do nothing! I want to take someyears off. The job for this festival is a very hard one if you do it the way wedid by taking the selection very seriously and seeing many, many films untilthe point of exhaustion."