The Locarno International Film Festival has appointed Italian film critic Irene Bignardi as its new director, replacing Marco Mueller who quit at the end of this year's event in August.

Bignardi, 57, currently works as a film critic and columnist for Rome daily La Repubblica. Until recently, she was also a member of the Venice Film Festival selection committee and responsible for its Venician Nights sidebar. She has also headed the Rome-based thriller festival, Mystfest.

Bignardi, who has been given a three-year mandate, has often been mentioned as a possible top contender for various big name festivals, including Venice, but has always refused such offers citing her preference to stay in her job as a critic.

The appointment of a new director has been the first task for Locarno president Marco Solari, who took up the position last month. Mueller, who had overseen the Swiss event as its director for nine years, is now a full-time producer at Benetton-owned Italian production company Fabrica Cinema.