Locarno Names Italian Journalist, Festival Programmer Carlo Chatrian as New Artistic Director

The 41-year-old Chatrian will step into the job vacated when Olivier Pere abruptly left to take over Paris-based Arte France Cinema.

VENICE – The Locarno Film Festival promoted from within in picking a new artistic director after the hasty departure of Olivier Pére, tapping Italian journalist, author, and veteran festival programmer Carlo Chatrian for the job.

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The 41-year-old Chatrian has worked at the Locarno Festival for the last decade, under four different artistic directors. For the four-year span ending in 2009, Pére’s first year in Locarno, Chatrian was on the festival's selection committee. He also oversaw the festival’s well-regarded retrospective program -- including hommages to acclaimed directors Ernst Lubitsch, Vincente Minnelli, and Otto Preminger under Pére, and on Italian auteur Nanni Moretti and on Manga Impact Japanese animated films under Pére’s predecessor Frederic Maire.

Chatrian also collaborated with the Locarno festival under earlier artistic directors Irene Bignardi and Marco Mueller, the former Venice Film Festival artistic director who took over at the helm of the International Rome Film Festival in March.

But this will be Chatrian’s first-ever job as an artistic director. 

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“I have been keeping a watchful eye on Carlo Chatrian for several years now,” Locarno’s president Marco Solari said in a statement. “I have always appreciated his intelligence and his professional abilities. He knows our event inside out and has the charisma and qualifications needed to lead the Locarno festival.”

Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that other candidates considered by Locarno’s board were former International Rome Film Festival co-director and current Abu Dhabi Film Festival coordinator Teresa Cavina; Vincenzo Bugno, a former Locarno official now at the Berlin Film Festival; and Bignardi, the former Locarno artistic director.

Pére’s departure from Locarno was completely unexpected, surprising even the top festival brass. People close to the developments have told The Hollywood Reporter that the announcement of Pére’s departure was made only because it had leaked, and the original plan had been to wait until a successor was selected before announcing Pére’s exit.

Pére will now take over as the general director of Paris-based Arte France Cinema, where he will replace Michel Reilhac, who will leave the post as of Dec. 1 in order to work on “personal projects.” Arte France Cinema, a content producer, is part of UniFrance.

Speculation in film circles in Europe is that his work at Arte France Cinema will fill a gap in Pére’s experience by giving him film production experience. It could make Pére -- who headed the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar in Cannes before coming to Locarno -- a leading candidate to eventually replace Thierry Frémaux, who has been artistic director in Cannes for 11 years.

Upon Pére’s departure from Locarno, Swiss newspapers said his decision came because he did not share Solari’s vision that Locarno could become a top-flight European film festival, on par with Cannes, Venice, and Berlin. “If he believed it he wouldn’t have taken a Paris desk job,” The Tages-Anzeiger newspaper in Zurich said.

Still, the publication rued his decision, saying he brought to the festival “an intellectual passion Locarno desperately needed,” adding that “It would be criminal if the élan and cosmopolitan spirit Pére injected into the festival is thoughtlessly squandered.”

Little is known so far about Chatrian’s plans for the festival. In a statement released by the festival, he called the 66-year-old Locarno event, “the place where the diversity of film is revealed, enriching us all.”

Chatrian added: “To have the chance to direct this event, so bold and sharp-sighted in its presentation of coming cinema that also engages a dialogue with what has gone before, is at the same time a cause for pride and a stimulus to take its agenda forward, an agenda that is characterized by freedom, an openness to the new, and is attentive to the requirements of both experts and the tastes of audiences.”

Until now, Chatrian has been relatively unknown outside Switzerland and his native Italy, but he brings a wealth of experience to his new post. In addition to his decade of work with the Locarno festival, Chatrian has collaborated with Cinéma du réel in Paris, The Italian National Film Museum in Turin (where he worked under current Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera), the Noir Festival in Courmayeur, the Alba Film Festival in nortern Italy, Florence’s Festival dei Popoli, and the Nyon Festival Visions du Réel. He has also published extensive essays on noted filmmakers including Errol Morris, Wong Kar Wai, Johan Van Der Keuken, Frederick Wiseman, Maurizio Nichetti, and Nicolas Philibert, and has nearly two decades of experience teaching film courses.

Film industry insiders on hand at the Venice Film Festival reacted positively to the news of Chatrian’s appointment, though a few said they were unfamilair with him.

Chatrian will take over the new job on Nov. 1, officially giving him 9 months and 6 days before the opening of the 66th edition of the Locarno Festival, which will run August 7-17, 2013.