Locarno Film Festival's incoming artisticdirector Frederic Maire has set himself of the goal of making the event"the festival of the future."

Speaking to ScreenDaily.com a day afterthe unanimous decision by the festival's board to appoint him as successor toIrene Bignardi, Maire said that "the spirit of Locarno must be preserved:Locarno is not the fourth festival behind Cannes, Venice and Berlin - it isdifferent. For me, we need to have continuity - through the Piazza Grande andthe ambience of the festival - but Locarno was and still has to be a place ofdiscovery."

Describing the Piazza Grande as being thefestival's focal point, Maire revealed that he would like to reduce the numberof classic films among the nightly open-air screenings and not pass on filmsjust because they have already been shown at other festivals.

"For example, this year there was theWenders film from Cannes, but another film one could have shown would have beenDavid Cronenbourg's A History of Violence. The audience on the Piazza isa Swiss one and the majority haven't seen the films in Cannes. We have to takecare of the audience we have here. And if I can get some big world premiereslike the festival did with Mulan and Face Off, obviously we wouldtry to do this."

At the same time, he noted that his "firstjob" would be to foster a closer working relationship with local Swissdistributors. Ahead of this year's festival, several distributors had voicedcriticism that their offers of forthcoming releases had been turned down by theartistic director, but Maire is adamant that Locarno "must again become aplatform for the launching of films and also of blockbusters. One mustn't besectarian here."

He added that the spotlight in future should befocused on the films rather than on issues and he will be looking to reduce thenumber of films and sections. "I think we have to help the festivalgoer toknow why this film is here, why we chose it," Maire argued, giving theexample of Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiro Suwa's competition film Un CoupleParfait as a case in point. "The film needed a few more words ofexplanation before the screening," he suggested.

As to the question of a reduction in thefestival programme, the Human Rights Programme - which had been championed sovigorously by predecessor Irene Bignardi - would appear to be a likelycandidate to be dropped. Especially since Geneva is the venue for anInternational Film Festival Of Human Rights and has UN Human Rights HighCommissioner Louise Arbour, Ken Loach and Jorge Semprun on its sponsoringcommittee.

In answer to criticism from certain quartersthat he doesn't have the international network of contacts necessary for anartistic director, Maire countered that "it is naive to constantly talkabout international contacts as if it would suffice to know Harvey Weinstein inorder to get a film from him. That's not the way it works. It is the festivalthat counts. Therefore, it is so important that Locarno has a clearidentity."

"The thing is that we will now probablyhave a different international network of contacts [from the previous director]and that will change the type of films we show slightly," he noted.

Seeing the festival's choice of a Swiss citizenas artistic director as a "strategic decision", Maire promised thatone of his "central tasks" would be to improve the contacts inSwitzerland and is keen to make Locarno become a place for informal meetingswith professionals to discuss their craft.

"For example, this year I could haveimagined Vittorio Storaro meeting up with a group of Swiss cinematographers fora chat over a risotto in one of the valleys outside Locarno."