The Locarno Film Festival has appointed longtime collaborator Markus Duffner as the head of its Locarno Pro industry program.

Duffner, who will take the Locarno Pro helm in January, is replacing Paris-based sales exec Valentina Merli, who after being appointed to the post roughly a year ago quietly stepped down following this year’s virtual edition in August.

As head of Locarno Pro, Duffner will work closely with Sophie Bourdon, Locarno Pro deputy chief who also heads its Open Doors co-production forum, dedicated to nurturing cinema in areas where filmmaking is especially tough.

Nadia Dresti, who has been with Locarno intermittently for roughly 30 years — and built its market side into a unique and formidable space for international quality cinema industry operators — will continue in her role as its international advisor. Dresti in January of this year stepped down as Locarno Pro chief and, at that time, handed the reins over to Merli, while staying on in a less hands-on capacity.

Locarno has been through a turbulent time lately in terms of management — most notably with the abrupt resignation in September of artistic director Lili Hinstin after just two editions, one of which was virtual. Hinstin in November was replaced by former Venice Critics’ Week chief Giona Nazzaro and the fest now appears to be set on a more stable course.

Duffner, who is German but was born and raised in Italy, has considerable film market and festivals experience. Besides Locarno, he has worked for Rome’s MIA Market, the Monte-Carlo Film Festival de la Comédie, and the VOICES Festival in Vologda, Russia.

At Locarno, Duffner has been working for Locarno Pro since 2014, in charge of projects such as First Look and Match Me! In 2020, he launched Locarno Pro’s Heritage Online, a first-of-its-kind platform that serves as a database and business facilitator with streaming platforms of film titles that premiered prior to 2005. Duffner is also founder of VOD platform Spamflix dedicated to cult films.

The 74th edition of the Locarno Film Festival is scheduled to run Aug. 4-14, 2021, with Locarno Pro running Aug. 5-10.

In a statement, the fest said its team is currently working “in full compliance with official health and biosecurity guidelines,” towards a complete physical event of its 2021 edition, barring coronavirus complications.