The 66th Locarno Film Festival will honor Werner Herzog with its Pardo d’Onore Swisscom award dedicated to contempo cinema masters, the first laurel announced by new artistic topper Carlo Chatrian. Herzog, he said, embodies his vision for the fest.

“Herzog is a very versatile director, whose work spans no-budget to big-budget, narrative cinema and documentaries, classic and cutting-edge cinema, but always with a distinctive identity,” said Chatrian. “Prizes for me are signals. The range present in Herzog’s work is what I would like to have in each of the festival’s sections.”

Herzog’s next project is “Queen of the Desert,” about explorer, writer and archeologist Gertrude Bell, starring Naomi Watts. Nick Raslan will produce through his Palmyra Films with Cassian Elwes and Michael Benaroya.

The Locarno tribute will include a mini-retro of Herzog’s work.

Chatrian took the reins from former Locarno topper Olivier Pere in November. One of the first things he did was fly to L.A. to meet studio execs, a trip likely to yield a big U.S. actioner as the fest opener. “Our rapport with U.S. cinema is essential,” said Chatrian, who is a critic and former longtime Locarno collaborator. Locarno will run Aug. 7 to 17.