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They work together in their Little Park Studio, and their chemistry birthed the new Locarno76 poster: a dream-like, evocative image where the leopard intertwines with a female figure, opening new horizons and inviting us to let our imagination take flight. British duo Ciaren and Sarah Diante unveil their creative universe for us, explaining how it got them all the way to Locarno, as fate would have it.
- Were you familiar with the Locarno Film Festival, have you ever been there? What is your idea of it?
Ciaren: For us, Locarno is a magical place. It’s a hidden gem in Europe. We were aware of the Festival but never had the opportunity to visit before. This year will be our first time. I love cinema and greatly appreciate the power a single film has to move and inspire people in some way. The Locarno Film Festival seems like a movement that encourages people to express themselves in new, exciting, and thought-provoking ways, so culturally it resonates with our way of thinking. It also feels like a festival that promotes new and undiscovered talent, which is great. Coincidentally, my father worked in Locarno when he was 18 and he also loved movies, so it has always been my dream to take my family there. Last year, a friend of ours from New York had heard about the poster competition and suggested we apply because he really likes our art (it very much felt like fate has been calling us there!).
- Could you tell us about your artistic background?
Sarah: Neither of us has had any classical training – we simply aim to be bold and try new things with our artwork. We enjoy experimenting with different ideas and our main objective is to create beautiful, joyful art that is both uplifting and inspirational. It’s a credit to the Locarno Film Festival that anyone can have the incredible opportunity to enter this wonderful competition. It also demonstrates the inclusive and open culture of everyone involved with the Festival, as the competition is truly open to anyone regardless of their background.
- Could you describe the creative process that led to the creation of this poster? What idea did you start with?
Ciaren: The initial inspiration came from the Festival’s move towards introducing gender-neutral performance awards, replacing the archaic male and female acting categories. The world is moving forward in many exciting ways, and we were so inspired to see that the Locarno Film Festival had taken proactive steps to further embrace inclusivity and diversity. Our purpose was to create something that would celebrate this positive move.
Sarah: Yes, with that idea in mind, we thought about the fluidity of a great actor who can take on a variety of roles, and can morph into anyone and anything (including a creature), regardless of gender, race, or anything that may cause bias. You see the two central characters represent this sentiment as they merge together elegantly. Our home studio is surrounded by nature so we are very much inspired by leaves and plants. Including these in the artwork creates a magical, peaceful feeling. We wanted to produce a romantic piece that would evoke emotions, and we hope we have achieved that.
- How do you work in pairs? Is it more a matter of dividing tasks or sharing the process?
Ciaren: I'd like to give credit to Sarah here as she is the creative lead and a real inspiration. In the same way that some actors need multiple takes before creating the scene they are most content with, we also need to work through a few versions of a piece until we are both truly satisfied. It’s a process that we enjoy going through together - for us art is a passion that we are fortunate to share.
Sarah: Ciaren is incredibly talented and a visionary who can bring great ideas to life. It’s fantastic to have someone to bounce ideas off, and also someone to encourage and inspire you. We are both very honest in our feedback if we don’t like something in the piece and we are always open to changing course and trying different ideas until we achieve the right finish – in that sense, we’re both perfectionists and will keep going until we get the very best result.
- How come you decided to include blue, a new element compared to the traditional Festival colors?
Sarah: Honestly, we were so nervous about including it! As you say, it had never really appeared like that in the traditional Festival branding. As artists, it is our job to take the audience on a journey they have never been on before, in order to surprise and delight them, hopefully. We wanted water to be an essential element in the background, so we began working with shades of blue that would complement the yellow. The shade of blue we chose is a favourite of mine and it feels serene. It also created the ideal contrast and framing for our central characters, to highlight their presence even further. It just worked really well.
Ciaren: Yes, sometimes in life you have to step out of your comfort zone and explore a different space – we knew including blue was a risk, but we also trusted that the judges would be as courageous as us, and be open to new ideas. Fortunately, they really were.
- In your poster, which is very innovative, you can also feel a pictorial tradition coming from the past. What were your sources of inspiration?
Ciaren: When I was traveling across Costa Rica many years ago, I would often see huge eye-catching murals on the side of buildings, of beautifully drawn images that had slight imperfections around the edges but at the same time looked incredibly fresh and clean. The colours were always extremely striking and vibrant. This was breathtaking and raw art. I wanted to recreate that concept with this piece.
Sarah: Yes, we wanted to strike a balance between being innovative and forward-thinking, but at the same time incorporate a traditional style with abstract elements. As Ciaren mentioned, raw art can be stunning to look at and it’s a style we like, even though it’s so different from previous posters representing the Festival. The concept was definitely a risk but that is the fun part of being creative – there should be freedom to experiment, push barriers and introduce different ways of doing things.
- What does cinema mean to you?
Ciaren: I used to work on a refugee camp in Sudan a few years ago and once a month, a local businessman would return from his travels with a video cassette of a foreign film. Each time it would be a film from a different country he had visited. He would create his own open-air cinema by projecting the film onto a large bedsheet that had been suspended between two posts. Over 10,000 refugees would gather to watch the film and even though many of them didn’t understand the language of the film, they would sit transfixed, mostly in silence, but every now and then you would hear them all burst into laughter or gasp at the same time. It was so incredible to watch their faces as they were transported to another world for a few hours. It became their favourite event of the month and helped them to cope with the real-life challenges of every day. It gave them hope. Cinema is a gift that everyone should have access to, but so many people don’t. We are the lucky ones.
- Choose one film each that represents you.
Sarah: One that I watched recently stayed with me as it was both heart-warming and filled with emotion as well as romance. The film is called The Kindness of Strangers and it’s a beautifully simple piece of cinema with extraordinary stories that intertwine and become one. I won’t give away any spoilers but needless to say, I value kindness above everything.
Ciaren: Mine is a French film called The Intouchables which is almost as perfect as a film can get. It’s a charming story about an unlikely friendship and is the type of film that makes you smile in one moment and then cry the next. Also, it has a breathtaking soundtrack by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. I think it’s important to be able to smile in the face of adversity and make the most of any situation.
- What is the link between cinema and fine art for you?
Sarah: Cinema and fine art are vehicles that can take us on an emotional journey, and make every one of us feel alive. As an artist or filmmaker, it’s a privilege to be able to offer that experience to others.
Ciaren: As children, we grow up loving stories and make-believe. I think cinema and art have the power to transport us back to that wondrous state where we once again believe anything is possible.
- Will you be at Locarno76 and what are your expectations?
We will, and we are so excited. We have no expectations, as it will be our first time - we just feel incredibly fortunate and grateful. We want to say thank you to the Locarno Film Festival team, we have loved working with you.