Frederic Maire makes his exit as artistic director of the Locarno film festival this year with his fourth selection: outgoing Cannes Quinzaine (Director’s Fortnight) head Olivier Pere will take over from Maire at the end of this year’s event. “We’ve struggled with Olivier over the same titles as competitors, so we know he will defend the same kind of cinema and the Locarno tradition,” says Maire.


Piazza plans

Prosperous with aCHF$11m budget ($10.2m), Locarno stands out amongst festivals because of its unique, 10,000-seater open-air Piazza Grande venue, which boasts (non-competitive) screenings every night. Strengthened by Edinburgh’s move to June, Locarno still programmes into the jaws of Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian, making Italian and Spanish titles particularly hard to come by.

 Opening with the Sundance hit 500 Days of Summer (pictured: a continuation of Locarno’s strong relationship with Fox Searchlight and the festival’s only real nod to the US), Piazza highlights are:

Claude Miller’s Marching Band (a pre-festival screening), opening in France on August 5 and widely felt to be an oversight by Cannes programmers.

The Larrieu Brothers with their take on the Hollywood disaster movie, Les Derniers Jours Du Monde, starring Mathieu Amalric as a man whose answer to the end of the world is to, er, faire l’amour.

- Spain’s Marc Recha with Petit Indi, set in the industrial outskirts of Barcelona and almost a Kes-like title starring Eduardo Noriega and Sergi Lopez.

- Weeping Camel co-director Byambasuren Davaa returns with The Two Horses of Genghis Khan, a documentary-style search for a song in Mongolia.



They want a Golden Leopard


With 17 titles competing for the Golden Leopard in the International Competiton, some have distinct pre-festival buzz –

-         She, A Chinese, directed by London-based Chinese writer (The Chinese-English Dictionary of Love) and director Xiaolu Guo (How Is Your Fish Today?). This is a co-production involving Warp X, UK Film Council and Film 4.

-         Shirley Adams, a graduate feature – risky for Maire to programme - from Oliver Hermanus and a US-South Africa co-production in which two families are torn apart when a boy is accidentally shot and paralysed by his best friend.

-         Nothing Personal , a Dutch-Irish co-production from Urszula Antoniak, in which a runaway from Holland meets another lost soul, played by Stephen Rea.

-          The Search, by Tibet’s Pema Tseden has already won the Jury grand prix at Shanghai in June and is “one of our strong revelations this year,” according to Maire.

-         Frontier Blues, an Iranian-UK-Italian co-production, features four stories shot in Tehran by UK-based director Babak Jali.


Anybody in the market?

Maire says that the sales success of previous festival winners has “made it easier for us to get the films we definitely wanted this year”, saying he issued firm invites – and received firm commitments – much earlier than usual.


There is certainly a palpable industry presence at Locarno, given that it takes place in the heart of Euro-holiday season (August 5-15 this year). Last year’s Golden Leopard winner Parque Via was picked up by Fortissimo and sold widely to festivals and arthouse, although 2008’s biggest noise was Lance Daly’s $2.3m Kisses, picked up by Focus Features. Winning at Locarno isn’t always a guarantee, though: Masahiro Kobayashi’s The Rebirth disappeared quite quickly after its 2007 win (the director is back this year with Where Are You? in Competition), while Andrea Staka’s Fraulein in 2006 also failed to make much of a post-fest noise.



More, more more


Amongst Locarno’s packed schedule of events, Leopards of Honour will be given to director William Friedkin, actor Toni Sevillo and producer Martine Marignac. Pippo Delbono will receive his tribute – and the premiere of his 69-minute feature La Paura, shot entirely on a mobile phone – and there will be an impressively extensive sidebar called Manga Impact, on Japanese animation, with 30 features being screened.