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Locarno and Documentaries

A still from a Peau si lisse

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The documentary form has always played an important role in the Locarno Festival’s history (one needs only to think of Swiss auteurs like Markus Imhoof and Jean-Stéphane Bron), and the 2017 edition is no exception, especially as far as the two main competitions are concerned.

The Concorso internazionale features the grand return of a longtime friend of the Festival, Canadian director Denis Côté. A regular attendee (and winner of awards) with his feature films from 2005 to 2010, Côté is back in Locarno with Ta peau si lisse, a portrait of six men who share one obsession: overcoming their physical limitations. Another veteran, Ben Russell, who showcased A Spell to Ward off the Darkness in 2013, is also competing for the Golden Leopard with the aptly named Good Luck, an exploration of the lives of two mining communities (one in Serbia, the other in Suriname), shot on Super16mm. Travis Wilkerson, who was in Locarno in 2015 with Machine Gun or Typewriter?, blends his own history with social concerns in Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, as he looks into a racially motivated murder committed by his great-grandfather. Finally, acclaimed Chinese documentarian Wang Bing delivers a devastatingly intimate portrait of old age with Mrs. Fang, about the final stages of life for a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The theme of aging is also strongly present in Distant Constellation, selected in the Concorso Cineasti del presente. Shevaun Mizrahi makes her directorial debut with this exploration of a changing world seen through the eyes of the residents of a retirement home in Istanbul, an eclectic group with members ranging from a genocide survivor to a couple of pranksters who haven’t lost their mischievous side. Turkey is also the nation behind Gürcan Keltek’s Meteorlar, about a nightly ritual that comes into contact with natural phenomena.

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