Cannes' general manager Thierry Fremaux has become a respected trendsetter, carving his mark on the festival by welcoming feature documentaries and animations into the competition and embracing US film-makers.

In the week the 2008 Cannes line-up is unveiled, Fremaux talks to Nancy Tartaglione-Vialatte about where he plans to take the festival and what he sees for the future of arthouse film-making.

Which festivals do you enjoy attending'

Before I started at Cannes, I loved going to festivals. I have a particular affection for Tom Luddy's Telluride and I used to regularly go to the San Francisco festival.

I find the North American audience is one of the most generous in the world. I loved Berlin, especially in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and also Locarno and Bologna.

Today, I go to Berlin and Venice thanks to my friendships with Dieter (Kosslick) and Marco (Mueller) and I regularly go to Pusan.

The eternal question: are there too many festivals'

There are too many festivals that do the same thing - that's really the problem. There are too many that claim to have the same status.

The word 'festival' is used for events with totally different content, styles and sizes.

It's understandable that a town wants to have its festival, but it would be good to clarify the situation a bit. A small festival should accept previously shown films and not be obsessed with world premieres.

How can a festival find its niche'

By having first, a strong idea; second, a good location; and third, a good spirit. Once you have those three parameters, you can put together a great event.

This year will be the first Cannes since the deaths of Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. Who do you believe to be their natural heirs'

It's difficult to name precise heirs but what is certain is that Bergman and Antonioni were treated to a worldwide homage when they died - yet when they were active in the 1950s and 1960s, their audacity and sometimes their radical nature brought them a lot of criticism.

What I mean is that today there are a lot of Antonionis and Bergmans. There are a lot of film-makers who try to find new forms via a certain aesthetic and by taking risks - people who try to go against the grain of the standardisation of images and cinema.

We can't wait until they die to say that this was important. We must recognise them immediately. That's what big festivals, critics and professionals try to do. We'll see in Cannes this year a lot of film-makers following in the Bergman and Antonioni tradition.

Could their deaths signal the end of arthouse filmmaking as we know it'

Yes and no. I agree with the idea this is perhaps the end of a cycle - not in terms of creativity but in terms of the relationship with the audience, with financing, with critics. The years ahead of us will be exciting.

What do you believe has been your personal stamp on Cannes so far'

When Gilles Jacob hired me, he basically said: 'Don't ever think that Cannes is the biggest festival in the world, but do everything so that it stays that way!' So I try to think about the conditions that make Cannes the biggest worldwide meeting place for cinema.

For me, Cannes is a collective heritage. We are in charge of the festival but the festival belongs to those who contribute to make the event a global village that is unique in the world.

I have the habit of saying that Cannes belongs to those who do it, not to those who defeat it.

How would you define what you've brought to the festival'

For the past few years, the festival has legitimised the fact documentaries, genre movies, animation and popular cinema are present in big festivals.

And a lot of our colleagues have followed us, which I'm thrilled about. I try to help Cannes evolve and be open to all cinema. The stronger the festival is, the more it helps film-makers. And, precisely, it helps those heirs to Bergman - the auteurs.

What film-makers do you think you've helped to gain recognition or to mature'

That's not for me to say. I only do my job as a programmer. If I've helped them, it's because they already had talent.

What do you do when you aren't working'

What' There's another life possible outside of Cannes' Well, no-one told me!

This year's Cannes Competition line-up has a strong Latino flavour with the strongest showing in years - if not ever - from Latin American film-makers and, of course, Steven Soderbergh's Che Guevara epic.

The latter, which comprises two films, Guerrilla and The Argentine, will screen on the Croisette as one four-hour project so as not to pit Soderbergh against himself in what will likely be a hard-fought race for this year's Palme d'Or.

At press time, the opening and closing films were yet to be decided and further Competition titles, including an expected third French film, will be announced in the next week. Notable omissions at press time were Fernando Meirelles' Blindness and Agnes Varda's autobiographical documentary Les Plages D'Agnes.