Locarno International FilmFestival's Irene Bignardi is promising a journey into "unchartedterritories"for her final year as artistic director with 12 worldpremieres in its 15-title competition line-up of films.

While admitting that 2005was "undoubtedly a complex and difficult year for internationalproduction", Bignardi told ScreenDaily.com that she was "veryhappy that we discovered a number of films which are 'ours' and very much inline with Locarno's character: films like the Japanese Nobuhiro Suwa's UnCouple Parfait or Antonio Capuano's La Guerra Di Mario which areborderline, operating outside of genres and pretty extreme in their ownfield."

She explained that threecommon threads - personal themes, social issues and fantasy elements - could beidentified as running through the competition films this year.

"On the one hand, youhave Suwa's incredibly sensitive handling of the end of a marriage in UnCouple Parfait and, on the other, there are a number of films responding totoday's reality such as A Perfect Day from Lebanon or We Are All Finefrom Iran," Bignardi said.

"The title of BizhanMirbagheri's film belies the fact that nobody is actually fine. Moreover, thetwo British films - Mirrormask and The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakesbelong to a kind of special humanist world and are two very magical filmsabout the exploration of the self."

Alongwith the International Competition, the number of films screened in the nightlyopen-air programme on Locarno's Piazza Grande has been reduced this year.

ButBignardi explained that the absence of US blockbusters in the Piazza Grandeopen-air programme "was neither planned nor desired", but was adirect result of the growing problem of film piracy which made the US studiosreluctant to give their Autumn releases to Locarno.

The Piazza Grande programmewill open with the world premiere of Indian filmmaker Ketan Mehta's TheRising - following in the tradition of Locarno's particular focus on Indiancinema - and will also special screenings of films to honour the 2005 edition'sspecial guests before rounding off on August 13 with a presentation of RobertAltman's 30-year-old Nashville with one of the stars Geraldine Chaplinin attendance.

As "finalfireworks" to end her five years as artistic director, the festival willbe presenting three Leopards of Honour in recognition of three aspects ofcinema to Wim Wenders, Abbas Kiarostami and Terry Gilliam.

As previously reported, theUK producer Jeremy Thomas is to be this year's recipient of the RaimondoRezzonico Prize, while last year's newly created Excellence Award will beawarded at this edition to John Malkovich who will also host an actingmasterclass during the festival. In addition, there will be special tributespaid to the veteran cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and the documentaryfilmmaker Albert Maysles with Christo and Jean-Claude.

Meanwhile, it was revealedyesterday (July 12) that the festival's deputy artistic director Teresa Cavinawill also be stepping down after the end of this festival. According to Swissfilm industry sources, Locarno's administrative board will have the question ofBignardi's successor on the agenda for its meeting on the Sunday (August 14)after the festival.

Among the names whichhave surfaced in recent weeks as possible candidates for artistic director areJean Perret, the director of the Nyon International Film Festival "Visionsdu Reel", Wieland Speck, head of the Berlinale's Panorama section, andformer Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera.

Meanwhile, 30 international buyers including the USA's Sundance Channel, Singapore's Overseas Movie Distribution, the UK's Dogwoof Pictures and Cinefile, and the Czech Republic's Major K International are set to attend this year's festival for the first time.

Nadia Dresti of the festival's Industry Office told ScreenDaily.com

that "this year, we have more buyers than ever," and said that acquisitions executives from Belgium's Paradiso Film, Germany's Flax Film and Real Fiction, Japan's Annie Planet, the USA's M & L Banks, France's Wide Management and Hungary's Cirko Film would also be newcomers to Locarno.

In addition to providing screening and networking services for the invited buyers, the Industry Office will again be involved as a partner in three professional meetings over the festival's first weekend.

LOCARNO 2005: InternationalCompetition

3 Grad Kaelter (Three Degrees Colder) by Florian Hoffmeister (Germany)
World Premiere

20 Centimetros by Ramon Salazar (Spain)
Int. sales: Sogepaq
International Premiere

Antarmahal (The Views of the Inner Chamber) by Rituparno Ghosh (India)
World Premiere

Un Couple Parfait by Nobuhiro Suwa (Japan/France)
World Premiere

Fratricide by Yilmaz Arslan (Germany/Luxembourg/France)
Int. sales: Wild Bunch
World Premiere

La Guerra Di Mario by Antonio Capuano (Italy)
Int. sales: The Works
World Premiere

Keller - Teenage Wasteland by Eva Urthaler (Austria/Germany/Italy)
World Premiere

Ma Hameh Khoubim (We Are All Fine) by Bizhan Mirbagheri (Iran)
Int. sales: Film IRAN
World Premiere

by Dave McKean (England/USA)
Int. sales: Sony Entertainment
International Premiere

La Neuvaine
by Bernard Emond (Canada)
Int. sales: Les Films Seville Inc.
World Premiere

Nine Lives by Rodrigo Garcia (USA)
International Premiere

A Perfect Day by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon/France)
World Premiere

The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes by Quay Brothers (UK/Germany/France)
Int. sales: Celluloid Dreams
World Premiere

Riviera by Anne Villaceque (France)
Int. sales: Celluloid Dreams
World Premiere

SnowWhite by Samir (Switzerland/Austria)
World Premiere

Special Event Outside Of TheCompetition

Face Addict byEdo Bertoglio (Italy/Switzerland) (Documentary)
World Premiere

PiazzaGrande - Open-air Programme

Being John Malkovich by Spike Jonze (USA)
Int. sales: Universal
Excellence Award to John Malkovich

Don't Come Knocking by Wim Wenders (Germany/USA)
Int. sales: Hanway Films
Leopard of Honour to Wim Wenders

The Flyer by Revel Fox (South Africa/Sweden)
International Premiere

Mah Nakorn (Citizen Dog) by Wisit Sasanatieng (Thailand/France)
Int. sales: Europacorp
International Premiere

Senjo No Merry Christmas/Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence by Nagisa Oshima(Japan/UK/New Zealand)
Raimondo Rezzonico Prize to Jeremy Thomas

Murderball by Dana Adam Shapiro, Henry Alex Rubin (USA)
Int. sales: ThinkFilm Company
International Premiere

Nashville by Robert Altman (USA)
Closing film

On A Clear Day by Gaby Dellal (UK)
Int. sales: Icon Entertainment International
European Premiere

One From The Heart by Francis Ford Coppola (USA)
Homage and Excellence Award to Vittorio Storaro

Rizeby David LaChappelle (USA)
Int. sales: Lions Gate Films Inc.
International Premiere

The Rising by Ketan Mehta (India)
Int. sales: Capitol Films
World Premiere

Village Football by Sainath Choudhury (India)
Int. sales: Berlinale Talent Campus
International Premiere

Zaina, Cavaliere De L'Atlas by Bourlem Guerdjou (France/Germany)
World Premiere

Zir E Darakhatan E Zeyton / Through The Olive Trees by Abbas Kiarostami(France/Iran)
Leopard of Honour to AbbasKiarostami

Cinema OfThe Present

9m2 Pour Deux
by Joseph Cesarini, Jimmy Glasberg (France)

by Nicolas Wadimoff (Switzerland)

Acts Of Men
by Kiko Goifman (Brazil)

Amour Neutre
by Pierre Coulibeuf (France)

by Pascal Rambert (France)

Cartographie 6 - Vallee De La Jeunesse
by Fernand Melgar (Switzerland)

Chere Jacqueline
by Dominique de Rivaz (Switzerland)

Delo Osvobaja
by Damjan Kozole (Slovenia)

En La Cama
by Matias Bize (Chile)

by Fabienne Berthaud (France)

Fuori Vena
by Tekla Taidelli (Italy)

by Luciano Melchionna (Italy)

The Giant Buddhas
by Christian Frei (Switzerland)

by Isabelle Stever (Germany)

Historias Del Desecanto
by Alejandro Valle, Felipe Gomez (Mexico)

In Un Altro Paese
by Marco Turco (Italy/France)

J'ai Besoin D'air
by Natacha Samuel (France)

Lonesome Jim
by Steve Buscemi (USA)

by Luis Ortega (Argentina)

Nuit Noire
by Olivier Smolders (Belgium/Holland)

by Francois Rotger (France/Canada/Japan)

Per Sempre
by Alina Marazzi (Switzerland/Italy)

Petit Matin (The Dawn)
by S. Louis (France)

Piccolo Sole - Vita E Morte Di Henri Crotta
by Nino Bizzarri (Italy)

Rag Tale
by Mary McGuckian (UK)

Sangue - La Morte Non Esiste

by Libero De Rienzo (Italy)

by Lina Bertucci (USA)

White Terror
by Daniel Schweizer (Switzerland/France/Germany/Finland)