The Locarno Film Festival is launching a first-of-its-kind contest, offering a free complete restoration service to a selected vintage cinema classic.

The contest is part of The Swiss fest’s Heritage Online program that was launched in 2021 when its Locarno Pro industry side branched out into vintage cinema creating a platform that serves as a database of film titles that premiered prior to 2005.

The goal of the fest dedicated to indie cinema is to play an active role in restoring older films to their former glory and also to become a business facilitator between rights holders and classic film distributors, streaming platforms and other outlets.

Locarno’s new Heritage Online Contest is open to feature films from all over the world that premiered no later than 2009. Applicants must prove they are the rightful owners of the submitted works in need of either partial or complete restoration. Applications will be open from March 8 to April 28.

Berlin and Zurich-based film lab Cinegrell is offering a free full restoration service to the vintage work that will be selected by an unspecified jury of three international industry professionals, a statement said.

Restoration of the selected film will start in Autumn 2023 and the new print will premiere at the fest in 2024.

Cinegrell previously partnered with Locarno on restorations of Canadian auteur Denis Côté’s 2007 experimental work “Nos vies privées” (“Our Private Lives”) and with Portugal’s Cinemateca Portuguesa on Manoel De Oliveira’s 1992 drama “O dia do Desepero.”

“Only a strong awareness towards film heritage and the still unexplored areas of its history can enable a festival to position itself as a credible interlocutor towards cinema at a time when the moving image and audiovisual industries are going through a moment of historical transition,” Locarno artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro said in a statement.

Locarno Pro chief Markus Duffner commented: “Heritage Online’s mission to bring our cinematic heritage back to life goes hand-in-hand with the need for updated and restored film materials, enabling classic titles to fit into the newest distribution models available on the market — and even then, not only there. We are delighted to be able to further consolidate our collaboration with our long-time partner Cinegrell and thus further contribute to the ongoing restoration of our shared film heritage.”

In a separate but related development Locarno Pro’s Heritage Online initiative will be dedicating a full day to the vintage film industry on Monday Aug. 7 with panel discussions on the state of heritage film distribution, case studies and presentations of newly restored films, as well as industry screenings of classics. The Heritage Monday’s full program will be announced in July.

The 76th Locarno Film Festival will run Aug. 2-12. Locarno Pro will run Aug. 3-8.