Locarno Film Festival's Leopard of Honour will be awarded inthe first edition under the new artistic director Frederic Maireto the Russian master Alexander Sokurov.

Sokurov has a special fondness for the Swiss festival sincehis first film The Lonely Human Voice wasawarded the Bronze Leopard there in 1987 and, ten years later, he received thefirst Video Prize for his documentary SpiritualVoices.He was also a member of the official International CompetitionJury in 1990.

This year, Sokurov will be in Locarno from August 9-13 for the world premiere of his newfilm Elegy of Life about the Russiancellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

Speaking at the weekend tothe Russian news and information agency Novosti, Sokurov recalled that "Locarnowas for me my first and thus probably the most significant foreignfestival" and explained that he would be breaking off from the shoot ofhis new film in Chechnya to come to present Elegyof Life in Locarno.

The documentary includesexclusive interviews with Rostropovich and his wife GalinaVishnevskaya, rehearsals for War and Peace in the Bolshoi Theatre, thepremiere in the Vienna Opera, and receptions in St. Petersburg.

"It must now be twoyears ago when the phone rang in my flat and I was allowed to speak for thefirst time with the master Rostropovich," Sokurovtold Novosti. "We met quite often. Spoke a lotabout music, the Russian symphonism, the agonies ofthe opera genre, the personality in the opera."

Meanwhile, the film'sco-producer Nikolai Suslov of SvarogFilms told Novosti that Elegy Of Life would be sold directly by the Russian producersrather than using an international sales agent: "We hope that we will besuccessful this time in getting buyers from quite a lot of countriesconsidering the interest shown both for Sokurov'swork itself as well as for the personalities of the main figures in his film."