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For the last 30 years the Locarno Film Festival's Pardo d’onore has been awarded to masters of contemporary cinema; previous recipients include filmmakers of such stature as Manoel de Oliveira, Bernardo Bertolucci, Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard, Abbas Kiarostami, Terry Gilliam, Aleksandr Sokurov, William Friedkin, Alain Tanner, Jia Zhang-ke, Leos Carax, Werner Herzog, Agnès Varda, Michael Cimino, Marco Bellocchio and, in 2016, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jean-Marie Straub, Todd Haynes and, in 2018, Bruno Dumont.
Starting from 2017, Manor, Main partner of the Locarno Film Festival for the past 19 years, will support the Pardo d'onore.
John Waters is more than a key figure in contemporary cinema, John Waters is an icon of American culture, perhaps its most genuine figurehead of recent times. As he himself has explained, his first influences were the gore and exploitation movies he saw in theaters in downtown Baltimore, the city of his birth and lifelong source of inspiration, where he still lives for much of the year. Further influences cited by Waters were the entire avant-garde and experimental output of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, together with the radical approach of its founders, and finally his love for European cinema – an affection to which he has remained true, as witnessed by his eagerly awaited Top Ten in Artforum every December.
Those three elements – his brilliant observation of popular culture, his refined irony and a very singular group of friends – have been molded by Waters into his very own film world, with a unique style that has evolved over a nearly 40-year-long career with absolute, subversive coherence, right from his earliest provocations.
Like Warhol and Fassbinder whom he admired, John Waters created from the outset his own personal, outrageous star system, yielding an aesthetic that he managed, tenaciously, to impose upon the world, without compromise – like the incorruptible cineastes of the New York underground scene who were his inspiration. His long deserved, if unexpected, box office success came well nigh inexplicably late and thanks to several films of the late 1980s.
Their popularity allowed him to take a break and concentrate on a literary career which was as important as his filmmaking. His writing revealed the full extent of his intelligence and wide knowledge, his devotion to artists of the past and indeed his dignity as a chronicler of American society. Over time, probably without ever aspiring to the role, John Waters has become a moral conscience of America, always amusing, original, carefree, but courageous and trenchant in his assault on the powers that be and the enemies of liberty.
A tribute to him is a homage to anti-conformism in its noblest sense and most sophisticated aspect.