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After the competitions, the Locarno76 Palmarès can finally be considered complete with the accolades from the grand stage of Locarno's audience, the Piazza Grande. Every evening, the viewers had the opportunity to express their opinions on the presented films, thus bestowing the Prix du Public UBS 2023, made possible by the Main Partner UBS, which has supported the award for over 20 years. In parallel, the Variety Piazza Grande Award, designated by a jury of journalists from the popular US magazine, was also presented.
The Prix du Public UBS for The Old Oak
For Ken Loach, recapturing the memories of the deep emotions stirred by his 2016 film I, Daniel Blake on the Piazza Grande wasn't a challenge. At Locarno76, the English director once again moved the thousands of present attendees with a work capable of portraying the perverse dynamics of fear and the social fractures of contemporaneity. The narrative engine revolves around a group of Syrian refugees arriving in a small mining community, exploring our relationship with diversity, our past, and increasingly uncertain future prospects. Ken Loach's cinema vehemently emphasizes that only solidarity can save us: "hope is political," the director emphasized in his speech to the Piazza. By enabling us to step into the shoes of others, cinema can become a powerful tool.
The Variety Piazza Grande Award for Čuvari formule (Guardians of the Formula)
Present-day conflicts, but seen through the lens of the past, also take center stage in the film selected by Variety's editorial team for their award. The honor was bestowed upon the film jointly produced by Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, Čuvari formule (Guardians of the Formula). Among the explicitly political titles presented on the Piazza, Dragan Bjelogrlić's film brought back the tensions of the Cold War, intertwining thriller and espionage genres, through the story of two doctors tasked with respectively researching a cure for radiation diseases and developing Yugoslavian nuclear technology. Amid ethical dilemmas and evident references to geopolitical current events, Čuvari formule" (Guardians of the Formula) also underscores the possibility that empathy and humanity can – and must – prevail.
These two very different yet conversing films thus conclude the 76th edition, marked by a strong desire for audience participation, reaffirming a newfound trust in cinema as a means to address some of the most crucial issues of society today.