Finding our (cinema) communities again

©Locarno Film Festival / Ti-press

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The film industry has faced epoch-defining changes over the past eighteen months. Everything has changed. Starting with our notion of ourselves as a society that lives through epoch-making changes merely as reflections of transformations that happen to “others”. Our relationship with images has accelerated even more quickly towards forms of atomized, individualistic consumption. The exceptionalism of the cinema, its event status, has been dramatically diminished by the impossibility of going out at all, let alone crowding in front of a screen. As a result, cinema’s right – even its very ability – to go on existing has seemed at stake. And yet the cinema, like all truly necessary human activities, not only did not bend, but has stood firm against the shock of the ever more rapid changes in consumption patterns within the industry brought on by the pandemic. As we prepared for the 74th Locarno Film Festival, we were soon able to clear up one popular misconception: that there wouldn’t be enough titles available to mount a strong, motivated, generous, and competitive edition. On the contrary, rarely have we been so sorry about the many titles we were obliged to put aside. Cinema – faced with a tragedy of historic dimensions – not only took up the challenge but has successfully turned it into the tale of how we – all of us together – have overcome it. 

While selecting the films you will discover from 4 to 14 August, our efforts were focused on broadening the horizon of the possible. Avoiding the temptation to follow the beaten paths, keeping our eyes open for films from hemispheres, latitudes and economies at opposite poles, tracking developments in young cinema and – above all – rethinking our relationship with the audience in Locarno and the audiences beyond the borders of our city and region. To be a Festival that opens itself up, inclusive and sustainable, that can address the complex problems generated by the historic moment we are going through, without lapsing into narcissistic elitism. Cinema today – more than ever – has expanded its reach via strategies and modalities of consumption that are netlike but highly fragmented. No period before our own has experienced such vast and far-reaching distribution of cinema, yet neither has any period witnessed the dominance of the industry in such forms so acutely threatened. As a result, we find ourselves facing – to take the argument to extremes – the possibility that the cinema itself might disappear, at the very peak of its existence as form, network, memory, archive and lingua franca of our shared imagination. Against that, the Locarno Film Festival remains determined to restore dignity and visibility to the cinema community and its countless stories. Our hope is that the films we have picked will offer the curious, enthusiastic, open-minded and the casual viewer some clues to a world (of images, cinema, film industry) still finding its feet and equipping itself to face the next century in its history. One thing we have no doubt about whatsoever is that the names picked out for this 74th Locarno Film Festival will be talked about again, for years to come. They are names that will soon be part of our community. Enjoy cinema, enjoy the films, and Viva Locarno! 

 

Giona A. Nazzaro 
Artistic director Locarno Film Festival