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10 questions to Olivier Père: Locarno newly appointed Loacarno Artistic Director

In an interview new artistic director Olivier Père outlines his vision of the Festival and ambitions for the future at Locarno.

1. How do you imagine "your" Locarno Festival?

Locarno has a clear identity and a great tradition, since the early days it's been committed to discovering and revealing new filmmakers and new territories. That's an approach I've always been very keen on, too, and I intend to stick with it. Locarno is a major festival that gives a useful overview of film today: we'll be taking an all-round look, with a special focus on auteur filmmaking. I also imagine a festival that will bring the films to life by giving a voice to the filmmakers themselves through forums, retrospectives and tributes; a festival with something new and surprising every year.
I'd like to see a welcoming festival, serious but friendly, too; an event that satisfies a broad and varied public by offering multiple perspectives, and which never loses sight of its principal objective: demanding, quality programming. In practical terms, this will mean giving equal status to the competitions and special screenings and to Piazza Grande, as also to the tributes and retrospectives.

2. What's going to be new in 2010?

For Locarno to be a more efficient festival and more pleasant for all involved, there have to be fewer films. For this reason I decided to discontinue the Ici et ailleurs sidebar. Another important new element is that the respective fields of action for the two full-length feature competitions have been redefined: in the future, the Filmmakers of the Present Competition will be restricted to first or second features by young directors, while the International Competition will continue to be more generalist in scope.

3. Will you be working with a new team of staff?

I've formed a new selection committee. It's standard practice, I reckon, to change the selectors when you take up a post as festival director: it's important to be able to count on your own team, on people you're used to discussing things with, and who share similar tastes and views. The new committee is very international in make-up, with five people I've been working with for a long time. Our objective will be to work in the most effective way possible to create an ambitious program.

4. Piazza Grande is the heart of the Festival and its showcase: a magical ambience beneath the stars, the giant screen and 8,000 spectators every night. What will be showing on "your" Piazza?

We have to find films that are worthy of the venue. The challenge is to share works that we have liked with the audience. I'm a great fan of American cinema, so there are bound to be some Hollywood movies in the Piazza Grande. I also intend to break with the rule of previous directors by showing some titles already screened at other festivals.

5. The 2010 retrospective has already been announced, and it's dedicated to that master of comedy, Ernst Lubitsch. Why him?

The choice is a return to film history and to the big "classic" retrospectives that are a part of the tradition and identity of the Festival. In that sense, for me Lubitsch was the perfect subject. He's one of the greatest directors in the history of the cinema; his work has had enormous influence on generations of filmmakers and continues to stand as an unassailable benchmark. Plus... he's one of my favorite directors. I was also keen to put comedy in the spotlight, as it still tends to be viewed as a "lesser genre" when compared to others. Lastly, I was thinking of the joy that a festival should bring - seeing Lubitsch's romantic comedies is such a pleasure, it'll be my gift to the spectators at Locarno, especially the younger generation that know little about him and have yet to discover "the Lubitsch touch".

6. Will there be room for  "glamour" at Locarno?

This is another issue where I find myself on just the same wavelength as the Festival President, Marco Solari. I don't think you can make a hard and fast distinction between festivals that focus exclusively on auteur cinema and others that go mainly for the glitter and the stars. Glamour can be important, but it has to suit the character of the event. From the outset Locarno has been accustomed to welcome personalities from the first rank of cinema and culture, who come here from all over the world to present their films, take part in debates, serve on our juries, receive awards... What's special about Locarno, though, is that here even the most prestigious guests experience the Festival together with everybody else, in a straightforward, relaxed atmosphere. It's not uncommon to see them in town during the day, then at festival venues in the evening; often they are ready and willing to take a very active part in discussions with the public. With that picture in mind, I and my team will be looking to invite actors and directors we admire; some of them, because of the films they have directed or appeared in, are indeed internationally famous. We'll be working to make sure we have such guests in attendance at Locarno this summer.

7. What are Locarno's strongpoints, faced with the tough competition from other film festivals?

Its history for a start, which is so rich in major films and discoveries; the spirit of freedom; that blend of seriousness and pleasure which is the secret recipe for success. Locarno is also lucky to be situated in a very beautiful part of Switzerland, and to be able to welcome festival-goers in such a remarkable place, offering them an exceptionally convivial atmosphere. Lastly, there's the Piazza Grande, an absolutely unique venue, with incredible projection standards. It's the dream of directors the world over and it gives us unforgettable moments of cinema, night after night.

8. What are your ambitions for the festival's future?

Locarno has to return to the very front rank of the international festival scene, strengthening its prestige and its strategic position for discovering new names in contemporary auteur cinema and the great directors of the future. Our goal will be to make Locarno even more important and attractive, both for young talents and for the established filmmakers and actors that we will be inviting and paying tribute to.

9. Theatrical admissions are in decline while downloads of movies from the Internet are on the increase. What part do you think a film festival can play in that scenario?

A film festival should be a sort of Utopia, where movie fans and industry people from all over the world meet to watch films on the big screen and then love them or hate them, defend them or pull them to pieces. It's the complete opposite of a virtual space in which films have no physical reality and are watched by lone individuals on a computer screen. Festivals are a place of aesthetic discovery... and for meeting other people, too. They're a window that opens onto film and the world.
It's also important that a festival's artistic choices be a pole of attraction for an international community of film lovers who can subsequently exert a positive influence on the destiny of a film or a director. The discovery of a new filmmaker is the result of teamwork, it's a chain whose links include critics and programmers. Festivals continue to play a primary role in that process.

10. What would be your three films to take to a desert island?

Three is far too few! I'll name a few more, just for starters...:

Cutter's Way (Ivan Passer)
Ludwig (Luchino Visconti)
My Darling Clementine (John Ford)
Faisons un rêve (Sacha Guitry)
Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma)
La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (Jean Renoir)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino)
Der Tiger von Eschnapur / Das indische Grabmal 
(The Tiger of Eschnapur / The Indian Tomb) (Fritz Lang)
The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis)
The Serpent's Egg (Ingmar Bergman)
Heaven's Gate (Michael Cimino)
Professione: Reporter (The Passenger) (Michelangelo Antonioni)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
Dodesukaden (Akira Kurosawa)
Soylent Green (Richard Fleisher)
Le mépris (Contempt) (Jean-Luc Godard)

Interview by Alessia Bottani


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