When he took over the organisation of the Marrakech International Film Festival four years ago, Bruno Barde and his 14-person team had just months to prepare.
But that did not deter Barde, who was already responsible for programming five other festivals as well as the promotional activities of roughly 30 films per year as managing director of Paris-based Le Public Systeme Cinema, a division of the communications, marketing and event planning group Le Public Systeme.
In addition to Marrakech, Le Public Systeme Cinema organises and programmes several French film festivals - Festival du Film Fantastique in Gerardmer; the Cognac Festival du Film Policier, the Deauville Asian Film Festival and the Deauville American Film Festival, as well as Brazil's Amazonas Film Festival.
Managing and organising the events and promoting a separate roster of films requires dedication, says Barde. "We spend 20 weekends together a year - there's no five weeks of vacation here," he laughs. "I see a thousand films a year. I can't defend the festivals if I don't do the selection."
Barde began his career in advertising and worked as French press agent for the likes of Federico Fellini and Takeshi Kitano from the mid-1970s. When he joined Le Public Systeme in the mid-1990s, one of his biggest innovations was to add a competition to the Deauville American Film Festival. The move helped to transform the event into a star-studded must-attend event each autumn.
"I'm a product of what I've done in the past," says Barde. "I can be the press attache for a Cannes selection and then programme Marrakech."
Although Barde has a particular penchant for Asian and US cinema, his festivals focus on international films. However, each event retains a French flavour, be it through the staff, the film selections or the jury members.
He says he put the emphasis on creating a comfortable meeting place and adding diverse twists to the events. Each festival is open to the public and cinephiles of all ages come out in droves. A new programme at Deauville this year saw 10 days of US classics, old and new, screening 24 hours a day.
Barde, who himself attends Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and the AFM, points out that when it is minus five degrees in Gerardmer, he encourages a cosy, family-like atmosphere where attendees can enjoy the parties or the ski slopes. At the Amazonas festival, monkeys routinely stop by the breakfast table; Marrakech provides an opportunity to dine in the presence of the king; and in Deauville, the Normandy beaches are just a few miles away.