The Locarno Film Festival has announced that Nadia Dresti is stepping down as head of the prominent Swiss indie cinema event’s market side which she built over two decades into a unique and formidable space for international quality cinema industry operators.

Dresti (pictured, left) praised in a statement as Locarno’s “Grand Dame,” is staying on board at the fest as “international consultant.” 

The new head of Locarno Pro is experienced Paris-based indie exec Valentina Merli (pictured, right) best known on the festival circuit for her years as head of sales and business affairs at French arthouse distributor Pyramide International which she left in 2018 to form her own production company, Misia Films.

Dresti has been with Locarno intermittently for roughly 30 years, starting out in the press office – with an interlude for a few years as head of marketing for Fox Switzerland. In 2,000 she was entrusted in by its then artistic chief Marco Mueller with launching Locarno’s industry side.

Over the years Dresti systematically lured increasing numbers of buyers and sellers and expanded and enhanced what was then called Locarno’s Industry Office with a slew of innovative initiatives, such as the Open Doors co-production lab to help international filmmakers in areas where the industry is nascent; the First Look strand for pics-in-post; the StepIn think tank to thrash out some of the most pressing issues preoccupying the independent film community; and the Locarno Industry Academy training program for young film industry professionals.

After Mueller, Dresti continued to build Locarno’s industry component working alongside artistic directors Irene Bignardi, Frederic Maire, Olivier Pere, Carlo Chatrian – under whose mandate she also served as deputy artistic director – and with Locarno’s current chief Lili Hinstin. She has always served as Locarno’s ambassador and represented the fest’s continuity in the international arena.

Hinstin in the statement said she was “very pleased” that Dresti was staying on board as consultant, as did Locarno president Marco Solari who also noted that “without her Locarno Pro as we know it today would not exist.”

“During my 20th year, in 2019, I realized that I was like the conductor of an orchestra in which everybody knows their job; everything works; and all you need to do is move the batons,” Dresti told Variety.

“But that’s not what I want,” she added. “I like challenges. I like creating new things, and discovering new things.”

The accomplishment Dresti is most proud of is the Locarno Industry Academy program for young film professionals, launched in 2014, which has since spawned more than 200 alumni. “It’s bred a new generation of film industry executives in different countries who are all in touch with each other on Facebook,” she said.

“I think I leave a legacy that will allow Valentina to easily continue without making big changes, because things work,” Dresti noted. “That said, going forward it will be up to her to see what modifications to make in order to adapt to an industry that is constantly changing.”

Besides her role as Locarno’s international adviser Dresti will continue to serve as director of Switzerland’s Ticino Film Commission, a position she took up in 2019.

The Locarno Film Festival’s 73rd edition will take place between August 5-15 2020, while its Locarno Pro industry component will run August 6-11.