Switzerland's Federal Office of Culture (BAK) will increase its annual support for the Locarno Film Festival by more than 10% from the current $1m (CHF 1.2m) to $1.13m (CHF 1.35m) for the next three years (2008-2010).

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily.com after the BAK announcement, Locarno's artistic director Frederic Maire commented that the promised support 'is a very nice birthday present for us and also confirmation of the position of Locarno in the Swiss festival landscape', but stressed that the festival needs up to another $837,700 (CHF 1m) over and above the current $8.4m (CHF 10m) budget to bring it up to the goal of $9.2m (CHF 11m).

'We will have to find money from more private sponsors, the [ Ticino ] region and other ways of funding,' Maire said. 'We know that the BAK can't do more. It is not a question of playing one festival off against another, this is also about how culture is supported in general in Switzerland.'

However, festival president Marco Solari had said in an interview last weekend that he was 'realistically' expecting the BAK funding for Locarno to increase from $1m-$1.25m (CHF 1.2m to CHF 1.5m).

The actual increase of $125,675 (CHF 150,000) doubtless means that Locarno will be relying more on the new club of patrons, whose membership includes the festival's four main sponsors UBS, Ticino Electricity Board (AET), Manor and Swissocm, as well as attracting additional sponsorship, since the BAK's support is now pegged at this amount for the next three years.

More than 80% - $1.74m (CHF 2.08m) - of the BAK's festival funding budget of $2.11m (CHF 2.53m) was allocated to three so-called A-Festivals - Locarno, Nyon's Visions du Reel, and Solothurn Film Days - 'which have a proven strong national and international aura and are of central importance for the Swiss film industry.'

Nyon received around 20% more funding - $335,157 (CHF 400,000) - while Solothurn's backing - $276,508 (CHF 330,000) - remains the same as before for the next three years.

A second category - 'Un certain regard' - for 'the four most important emerging hopes in the Swiss film festival landscape' saw annual awards of between $41,895 (CHF 50,000) and $62,842 (CHF 75,000) being allocated to the Fantoche International Festival for Animation, Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival, Winterthur International Short Film Days, and the Zurich Film Festival for 2008-2010. The Fribourg International Film Festival received a subsidy of $83,790 (CHF 100,000) - instead of the previous $201,097 (CHF 240,000) - for the 2008 edition only.

In addition, a third category of festivals - 'Un nouveau regard' - for small, specialised events awarded $20,947 (CHF 25,000) each to Videoex (Zurich), Talent Screen (Zurich), Black Movie (Geneva) and the Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival.

One casualty of the new procedure introduced by Nicolas Bideau, head of the BAK's film section, to determine the successful bidders was Geneva's Cinema Tout Ecran festival which will no longer be supported from 2008.

Until now, the international cinema and television festival had received $202,773 (CHF 242,000), but Bideau justified the decision to stop the support by explaining that 'the profile of this festival is not very clear, its organisation has shortcomings and its impact is far from being national.' He noted that 'television has changed a lot in recent years and the programming has not adapted to this. I add that television is not the priority of the BAK which is promoting cinema.'

Meanwhile, Leo Kaneman, Cinema Tout Ecran's artistic director, said in Locarno that the withdrawal of BAK support would not jeopardise the future of the festival.

The decision for the twelve film festivals was made by a expert committee of distributor Monika Weibel (Frenetic Films), producer Christian Davi, director Fosco Dubini, communication specialist Tina Boillat, and journalist Antoine Duplan, from 20 applications for funding totalling $3.9m (CHF 4.7m), almost twice the amount at the BAK's disposal.

Explaining the selection criteria Bideau said: 'For us, the festival must be the link between production and the audeince, but also a platform for supporting our filmmakers. [By allocating] 80% of our funds for three festivals we are showing that these ones are best corresponding to our expectations.'