Locarno’s Olivier Père is expecting to have a “stronger American presence” for his second outing as artistic director at this year’s festival (Aug 3-13).

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily during a visit to Berlin, Père said: “This year will see a difference from 2010 in that we have turned more of our attention to the American films and I think we will have a stronger American presence.”

“Of course, to begin with, we will have Mike Medavoy receiving the Raimondo Rezzonico Prize and Abel Ferrara for the Leopard of Honour, but there will also be films in the competition and on the Piazza. Naturally, as with any cinematography, the American presence depends on the quality of the films and on their availability, but I am very optimistic.”

Père and his selection committee are still in the process of screening films and will continue to do so until the end of June/beginning of July, so there aren’t any major announcements planned about selected titles until the official press conference in July.

“So far, we are very satisfied with the films available for selection for the two main competitions and the Piazza and we aim to continue improving the content [of the programme] as we started doing last year,” Père explained. “Looking at the different trends during our selection process, we have the confirmation that there is a very strong and interesting European production, and documentaries will again be very welcome in Locarno in the different sections.”

He added that local Swiss production would be well represented in every section and note that the documentaries’ presence would be “particularly strong.”

Père revealed that Locarno will be the venue for the international premiere on the open-air Piazza Grande of Japanese filmmaker Hitoshi Matusmoto’s latest feature Scabbard Samurai (Saya-zamurai) which is being released theatrically in Japan on June 11.

As a way of celebrating the work of “a remarkable artist and his extraordinary comedy and imagination”, Locarno will also screen Matsumoto’s other two features to date, Big Man Japan (Dai-Nipponjin) and Symbol (Shinboru).Big Man Japan had its premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in 2007 when Père was serving as the section head.

Meanwhile, last week saw the announcement that a former Locarno staffer Seraina Rohrer, has been appointed as the first woman director of the Solothurn Film Days, the annual showcase for Swiss cinema which is held each January.

33-year-old Rohrer, who headed the festival press office from 2006-2009, beat off competition from some 30 other applicants to become the successor to Ivo Kummer who had been festival director since 1989.

She will take up her post on Aug 1, the same date when Kummer will officially begin working in his new function as the head of the film department of Switzerland’s Federal Office for Culture (BAK).