It's hardly a surprise that a film festival's key image features its commander-in-chief, and Vienna International Film Festival director Hans Hurch has indeed been staring down from billboards all over the Austrian capital in the past few weeks. What's more interesting, however, is his companion on the posters. Rather than a well-known filmmaker or actor, Hurch's co-star is Vaska Viagova - whom observant festival-goers may recognise as the staff member who opens doors and snips tickets at the entrance of the Kunstlerhaus, one of the festival's six screening venues across town. This unlikely pairing runs with the catchphrase, 'Culture unites people', and is an idea that fits well with Hurch's vision for the festival. 'I don't want a festival to be an artificial construction for the film scene and for us - [but] I also don't want to make a big event for the city [government] and the sponsors,' Hurch says, leaning forward in his seat in a caf?at the downtown hotel which housed the festival's makeshift headquarters during its run, which ended on Wednesday. 'The festival should have a strong quality, but at the same time one which makes the public interested to go to. The thing we can really be proud of is how we succeeded in building a relationship of confidence between the public and the festival, so I can risk showing complicated films and the public will risk going and seeing these films.' Unlike its counterparts - such as the London, Pusan or Rome festivals, which happen around the same time - the Viennale, which began in 1960, hasn't been competing for or boasting about world premieres, Hurch says. Budgetary constraints and clashing schedules aside, the director says he's 'not going to give out a lot of money' for the stars. This year, it was mostly star directors who came and conquered. Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who made the film's one-minute trailer this year, was busy attending screenings and signing autographs during his four-day stay, while John Turturro and Lou Reed - better known for their screen and stage performances - visited the festival as directors, the former presenting Passione, his documentary on Naples, and the latter accompanying his short film Red Shirley, the rock frontman's explorations of the life experiences of his 100-year-old cousin. Mike Leigh also flew in from London with Another Year, while Olivier Assayas appeared for screenings of Carlos, his five-hour epic about the terrorist Carlos the Jackal, with his lead star Edgar Ramirez in tow. One of the festival's strongest suits has been its documentary programme, and this year Hurch's selection didn't disappoint. Apart from pieces which have already reaped acclaim at other festivals - such as Andrei Ujica's The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, Michelangelo Frammartino's Le Quattro Volte and Fan Lixin's Last Train Home - the Viennale also provided the springboard for new films such as Ricardo Iscar's Dance to the Spirits, a riveting and reflective piece which examines the impact of colonialisation and modernisation in a jungle town in Cameroon through the work of a local 'witch doctor'. Austria, meanwhile, is represented by Houchang Allahyari's The Crazy World of Ute Bock, revolving around an educator committed to her support of the rights of asylum-seekers in Vienna, with actors re-enacting deportations and suppression by the authorities. Even more invaluable, however, is the festival's array of showcases for directors of the present and the past. The new is represented by programmes dedicated to Quebecois critic-turned-filmmaker Denis Cote and Austrian experimental director Siegfried Fruhauf. The old appears in the form of retrospectives of cinematographer William Lubtchansky and nouvelle vague master Eric Rohmer. 'In the past 10 years of his life his reputation and people's knowledge of his work has somewhat fallen by the wayside, even though he's been for a long time a major figure in European film,' says Alexander Horwarth, director of the Osterreich Filmmuseum, the festival's partner on the Rohmer showcase. The festival's most exciting and idiosyncratic programme, however, belongs to the retrospective of B-film director Larry Cohen. The American's oeuvre is given new life in guest programmer Olaf Moller's selection, a series spanning blaxploitation flick Black Caesar, subversive genre mish-mash (God Told Me To) and cerebral political drama (the rarely seen masterpiece The Secret Files of Edgar J. Hoover). Cohen's maverick work is similar in spirit to the Viennale's edginess in mixing everything into its basket and coming out with surprising wonders.