The 64th Locarno Film Festival achieved “a perfect balance” this year, according to Olivier Père in his second outing as the festival’s artistic director. Also, the ambitious Casa Del Cinema project could be in place by 2015.
Speaking exclusively to Screen Daily ahead of Saturday’s official awards ceremony and the world premiere of Stéphane Robelin’s And If We All Lived Together, Père explained that this balance had ranged “between the Minnelli retrospective, the International Competition with a strong artistic content mixed with auteur names from independent cinema like Mia Hansen-Love, Shinji Aoyama and Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche through unexpected debuts such as Anca Damian’s Crulic – The Path To Beyond, to a celebration of actors, actresses, and producers we love and admire including Isabelle Huppert, Abel Ferrara, Mike Medavoy, Gérard Depardieu and Claudia Cardinale.”
He declared that the 2011 edition was promising to be “even more successful than last year.”
“What we achieved this year is not only the result of 12 months’ work, but rather culminating from the past two years since some things cannot be achieved straightaway,” Père observed. “It is our goal to make Locarno a great international festival with ambitious content and an identity as a place where you can make discoveries, to be the place for new talents, new countries and new kinds of films.”
“At the same time, we are not a specialised festival – we love all kinds of cinema and want to make Locarno a great party for all film lovers, those who like to scout for new talents as well as for celebrating great popular cinema whether it is of the past, present or the future.”
“Locarno showed this year that the Piazza Grande is the ideal place to have the European premiere of summer blockbusters,” he continued. “I had wanted to do this last year but there had been a schedule conflict between the US and European releases. But it was perfect timing for three films - Super 8, Friends with Benefits and Cowboys & Aliens – this time round. We showed that the festival has the organisational capability with hospitality and security to be able to collaborate with the US majors in order to bring the Hollywood stars here for the promotion of their new films.”
His decision to present films from this year’s Cannes on the Piazza Grande also came up trumps with the screenings of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre.
Kaurismäki’s film was attended by its lead actors Kati Outinen and André Wilms and proved to be a perfect choice for the Piazza Grande showcase.
The only real low points in Père’s second year were admittedly out of his direct personal control: the rain at the beginning of the festival which, however, conveniently stopped for the opening film Super 8 and the Saturday evening screenings of Cowboys & Aliens and Drive, and the strength of the Swiss Franc which was 1:1 with the Euro during the festival and had even festival guests with expense accounts wincing at the prices in the restaurants around town.
Locarno went into its 64th edition bolstered with a CHF 350,000 increase in its budget thanks to additional support from the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) in Berne and the Canton of Ticino, bringing the festival’s overall budget up to CHF 11.3m.
Until this year, Locarno had received CHF 1.35m annually from the FOC, but this has now risen to CHF 1.45m, 62% of the total CHF 2.34m being paid out by the national institution annually to Swiss film festivals for the next three years.
Moreover, news broke on the eve of this year’s festival that the long gestating Casa del Cinema project looks to have come one step nearer to being realised by 2015.
CHF 42m investment is planned – CHF 8m from the Locarno local communities, CHF 19m from Berne and the Canton of Ticino, and the rest from tourism bodies and private sources – to convert a former school building near the Castello Visconteo into an audiovisual centre of international renown.
The Casa del Cinema would provide the Locarno film festival organisation with all-year-round headquarters as well as host a 400-seater cinema, the International Conservatoire for Audiovisual Sciences (CISA), a specialist library and film archives, among other activities.
The precise details would be hammered out in an international architecture competition, according to Locarno’s community president Carla Speziali.
Whether the Casa del Cinema will actually open its doors in 2015 remains to be seen as well as the question of whether this would still happen under Père’s aegis.
As artistic director, he currently has a three-year contract which began on Sept 1, 2009. “But I hope they will like to keep me for a little longer,” Père said.