News  ·  09 | 08 | 2020

Open Doors, Rediscovering Countries

Partly in theaters, partly online, the Open Doors Screenings revisit 18 years' worth of history

The traditional Locarno sidebar of the Open Doors Screenings, a window on the filmmaking of the countries in focus at Open Doors (an initiative promoted by the Locarno Film Festival in collaboration with the Directorate for Development and Cooperation (DSC) of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs), proposes two programming strands during Locarno 2020 – For the Future of Films. While Ticino-based viewers can relive the history of the first seventeen editions of Open Doors in Locarno through the retrospective Through the Open Doors, the Locarno Film Festival website offers ten feature films and ten short films from the four countries of the Open Doors 2020 focus (Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia) to a global audience.

The feature films included in the online selection of the Open Doors Screenings are works that at the time of their first presentation were very successful on the festival circuit. Due to the lack of distribution outside their home territories, however, these films have become extremely difficult to see. Locarno 2020 offers the global audience the chance to (re)discover them. In the spirit of Open Doors, this newfound visibility also aims to offer concrete help to active independent filmmakers, always looking for support and resources to make their new films. In this sense, the case of two directors whose new projects have been selected at the Open Doors Hub (the market for Open Doors projects), the Indonesian Mouly Surya and the Filipino Isabel Sandoval, is emblematic. We are showing their second features, What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love and Apparition, two unusual, ambitious and underseen films, which were made before the directors brought their subsequent works to Cannes and Venice respectively. Mouly Surya's film is a touching portrait of a group of disabled teenagers who discover the torments and throbs of adulthood and love, while Isabel Sandoval stages a psychological drama within the walls of a convent, against the backdrop of Marcos' dictatorship in the 1970s.

Somewhat surprisingly, the magnificent include two hilarious comedies: Yeo Joon Han's overwhelming satirical musical Sell Out! from Malaysia, and Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay by Antoinette Jadaon, a Filipino mockumentary that pays homage to the character actors of popular genre cinema.

But there is no shortage of powerful auteur films that deal with the contradictions of local societies, translating the personal into the political. Atambua 39° C by Riri Riza reflects on Timor's post-war trauma through an almost documentary drama. Clash by Pepe Diokno, which received the Lion of the Future in Venice in 2009, already denounced, more than ten years ago, the plague of the death squads orchestrated by Duterte, now President of the Philippines. Memories of My Body by Indonesian master Garin Nugroho writes in images the biography of the artist Rianto, proposing a reflection on gender identity in the most populous Muslim country in the world. And finally, Songlap by Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak is a fresco of youth adrift, between drug and human trafficking, against the backdrop of a merciless Kuala Lumpur.

The selection is completed by two retrospective tributes: on the one hand, the elegantly restored Burmese classic Tender Are the Feet by Maung Wunna; on the other hand, The Masseur, the very first feature film by the Filipino master Brillante Mendoza who, exactly fifteen years ago, won the Golden Leopard of the Video Competition, launching from Locarno the impetuous wave of the new digital cinema of the Philippines and the South-East Asia.

Paolo Bertolin