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Women guided by their own desires, often mystifying the societies in which they have to live: mothers who need no blood ties to feel themselves absolutely maternal; muse figures who step off their pedestal to become writers; the forced female laborers of history who take on the hardest of tasks; fading stars who fearlessly do whatever it takes to get a career back on track.
L'immagine e la parola (16 – 18 March, at Locarno’s GranRex theater) will open with the Swiss premiere of Figlia mia by Laura Bispuri (2018), fresh from its acclaimed competition debut at the Berlinale. It’s the story of a girl who finds out she was adopted and is torn between two women who both, in different ways, can be called her mother. The ancestral setting of Sardinia provides the backdrop for a film that has something of the western in its tense, multi-layered narrative, confirming the director’s skill at fleshing out portraits of unconventional women, helped by two sterling performances from Valeria Golino and Alba Rohrwacher.
The female vocalist for The Velvet Underground is the central figure in Nico, 1988 (2017) by Susanna Nicchiarelli, screening on Saturday 17 March at 9 pm: anything but a routine biopic, the film documents the final two years in the life of the “priestess of darkness” as she shrugs off her New York pop idol persona to tour Europe on low-key gigs. Her true final challenge, though, is to solve the inner puzzle of her relationship with the teenage son she abandoned as a child.
Closing night, Sunday 18 March (6 pm) will round off the program with Les Gardiennes by Xavier Beauvois (director of Of Gods and Men), a First World War period piece seen from the perspective of women left behind to look after a farm while the men are at the front. The story hinges on the troubled relationship between the head of the family, played by Nathalie Baye, and the attractive young woman she hires to be a farm hand (Laura Smet).
Writer Antonella Lattanzi (Devozione, Prima che tu mi tradisca) does not shy away from the thriller genre. Her novel Una storia nera, published by Mondadori, uses a stripped bare, surgically precise style to tackle the issue of domestic violence. Her writing is peopled by figures from the movies, and on Saturday 17 March (4.30 pm) she will be presenting one of her personal favorites, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, starring the unforgettable Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The rivalry between the two declining movie queens, who both chose to showcase the unforgiving consequences of their age, was the inspiration for the hit TV series Feud. On the Sunday after the screening, 18 March, Lattanzi will read from her novel Una storia nera and join in a conversation with the audience (4 pm, Biblioteca Cantonale, Locarno).
On Saturday 17 March at 4 pm the Locarno city hall in Palazzo Marcacci, Piazza Grande, will host the roundtable Complici e colleghe (“Female Colleagues and Accomplices”) on women in audiovisual media, a collaboration with the Ticino Film Commission supported by SWAN (Swiss Women’s Audiovisual Network), exploring the contentious issues of the role of women in the world of work, and exchanging views across different generations.
Alongside the core program, this year’s regular screening for children, in collaboration with Cinemagia, will be My Neighbor Totoro, at the GranRex theater on Sunday 18 March (10 am). In addition, a new feature this year is two nights of music at the Mono Bar in Locarno: on Friday DJs Tania and Sébastien will present the sounds of Nico and the Velvet Underground, while Saturday will be the turn of renowned mixer DJ Vale from Zurich’s Bar 3000.