Italian film critic Giona A. Nazzaro, former head of the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, has been appointed new artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival.
His appointment comes just over a month after Lili Hinstin stepped down from the role in a shock departure.
A longtime Locarno fest collaborator, Nazzaro has plenty of programming experience, having served since 2005 at the helm of the independently run Venice section and on selection committees for the Rome, Turin and Visions du Reel festivals, as well as the Festival dei Popoli in Florence. He is an author of a book and essays on Hong Kong cinema, postmodern action films, and monographs on Abel Ferrara, Spike Lee and Gus Van Sant.
As head of the Venice Critic’s Week, Nazzaro raised the profile of the section dedicated to first works by making it bolder and edgier, with titles such as Indian animation “Bombay Rose” directed by Gitanjali Rao, this year’s opener, and Turkish director Azra Deniz Okyay’s gentrification-themed drama “Ghosts,” which won the section in September.
Nazzaro, who was born and raised in Switzerland, will take up his post officially with effect from Jan. 1, but will start working immediately alongside Nadia Dresti, interim head of artistic direction until the end of Dec. 2020. Dresti will continue as coordinator in charge of Locarno Pro in the early months of 2021, pending further announcements, Locarno president Marco Solari said. Nazzaro has yet to announce his programming team.
Solari praised Nazzaro as “an ideal match for the artistic profile” of the festival, noting that he was “already perfectly familiar with Locarno,” and “equipped with the planning skills” for the fest’s “indispensable future innovations in the digital environment,” and also “a person who has an international mindset but also strong ties to Ticino and Switzerland.”
The 74th edition of Locarno, which is Europe’s pre-eminent event dedicated to indie cinema, will run Aug. 4-14.
“The most important thing I want to say right now is that the festival needs to happen,” Nazzaro told Variety.
“It needs to happen in the best possible way and shape,” he added. “Because only by trying to go back to what was perceived as normal can we inject some extra fuel in an industry that is struggling.”