Less than two weeks before this year's Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) (March 18-25), the artistic director Martial Knaebel has announced that he will step down in June from the post he has held for the past 15 years.

Unveiling the festival programme this week, Knaebel said he had made his decision in order 'to allow new ideas and renewed ideas to carry on developing the Fribourg International Film Festival.' In response, the FIFF's president Jean-Francois Giovannini praised Knaebel for 'defending the films from the South throughout the duration of his mandate. Through his commitment, he contributed to the circulation and recognition in Switzerland and Europe of films and filmmakers too often excluded from the commercial circuits.'

The search for a new artistic director will begin after the end of this year's festival which will open on March 18 with Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Dry Season (Daratt) which was produced as part of Vienna's New Crowned Hope Festival.

Apart from sidebars of feature films and shorts from the South, a retrospective dedicated to the dawn of the Taiwanese New Wave and a panorama of recent South African cinema, the festival's 21st edition will have an International Competition of 13 titles, including Ariel Rotter's Silver Bear-winning The Other (Argentina), Xiaolu Guo's How Is Your Fish Today' (China), Fadhel Jahibi's Demencia (Tunisia), Benji Garcia's Batad (Philippines), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes And A Century (Thailand).

Meanwhile, this year's Augsburg Film Days (March 17-25) will be staging an Arabian Focus curated by mec film's Irit Neidhardt with many filmmakers travelling from the Middle East to present their films in person.

Among the feature films being screened are Seeds Of Doubt by Samir Nasr (Germany/Egypt), Leisure Times by Mohamed Mustafa (Egypt), The Last Man by Ghassan Salhab (Lebanon) and A Perfect Day by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon), the documentaries Road Beyond Sunset by Bassen Fayad (Lebanon), Baghdad Days by Heba Bassem (Iraq), From Beirut With Love and Juli Trip by Wael Noureddine (Lebanon), and I Am The One Who Brings The Flowers To Her Grave by Hala Alabdallah and Ammar Albeik (Syria) as well as the shorts On A Monday by Tamer El-Said (Egypt) and Be Quiet by Sameh Zoabi (Palestinian Authority).

In addition, the Film Days will host a conference on politics and current affairs in Arab news television and showcase work from Baghdad's Independent Film & Television College, the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative and film students from Beirut.