Olivier Pere Leaving Locarno Film Festival After Just Three Years

Olivier Pere Portrait - P 2012
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Olivier Pere Portrait - P 2012

The unexpected departure leaves a "mini" version of the Locarno event set for March in doubt.

ROME – Locarno film festival artistic director Olivier Pere is leaving the event just three years into his term in order to take over as the general director of Paris-based Arte France Cinema, organizers said Monday.

The unexpected announcement has left organizers scrambling to find a replacement: they said the festival’s Board of Governors would meet Sept. 4 to discuss replacement candidates. Organizers will hold a press conference the same day, in Locarno, in order to discuss the developments.

Traditionally, Locarno artistic directors have stayed at the post for at least four years.

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The 66th edition of the lakeside Swiss festival is scheduled to open August 6, 2013, which means that if a successor is named in September, he or she would have around 11 months to pull together the next edition of the event.

That is more than most first-year artistic directors have in nearby Italy -- new Venice artistic director Albero Barbera and new International Rome Film Festival head Marco Mueller were both named just eight months before their respective events, and new Taormina Film Festival director Mario Sesti had only 40 days to pull this year’s festival together. But in Locarno, changes are usually more deliberate: Pere was named more than 16 months before his fist edition opened, while predecessor Frederic Mare was still on the job overseeing the final festival of his mandate.

The last edition of the Locarno festival, acclaimed by many as the best under Pere, finished August 11. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter just before the event concluded, Pere said he “loved” the job in Locarno and was looking forward to future editions.

It is not clear where Pere’s departure leaves the “mini” version of the Locarno festival scheduled to take place in March, as announced by festival president Marco Solari at Locarno’s close. Pere was to be given full rein to organize the three-day event, set to start March 24. Solari said Pere’s only instructions were to “explore the connection between cinema and literature, between imagination and art.”

In a brief statement issued by the festival, Solari said, “I wish to thank Olivier Pere for his work and major achievements over the last three years, that have consolidated Locarno’s position in the international arena, and I am delighted for him at this next step in his brilliant career.”

In the same statement, Pere is quoted as saying, “I am very sad to be leaving the Festival but am also immensely satisfied with what has been achieved.”

At Arte France Cinema. Pere 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. The company is based in Paris, where Pere lives most of the year.