Frederic Maire is to succeed Irene Bignardi as artistic director for the Locarno FilmFestival from the 2006 edition.

Originally, the festival hadintended to announce the successful candidate on August 14, a day after thisyear's event wraps. But an apparent leak has led to news of the appointmentbeing widely reported on Swiss television and press. Thefestival is refusing to confirm or deny it.

Maire is currently organiser of the cinema educationinitiative Lanterna Magica. He once worked at Locarno as the press officer with responsibility forinternational trade press as well asserving as a moderator forpress conferences. He was also a member of the festival's programmingcommittee.

In 1992, he became one of the founders of the Magic Lanternnetwork of film clubs throughout Switzerland for primary school age children.The network now has clubs in 66 towns in Switzerland and the model has beenexpanded to other countries in Europe.

According to the festivalgrapevine, the only other person in the running for the artistic director'spost had been Nyon International Documentary Film Festival's director JeanPerret.

Perrethad also beenmooted in the past as the successor to David Streiff and MarcoMuellerwhen they stepped down from the Locarno post.

In past weeks, the quest fora successor for Irene Bignardi had seen the festival approach suchinternational figures as ex-Directors Fortnight chief Marie-Pierre Macia,former Venice Film Festival head Alberto Barbera, Berlin's Panorama headWieland Speck, Thessaloniki Film Festival's Michel Demopoulos and formerRotterdam International Film Festival director Simon Field.