News from the Locarno Festival

Here’s the Program of Locarno66


As I set out to write this short introduction, I naturally looked back over the route covered so far. Before the films themselves, the guests, the programs thought out and implemented over the past months, there first came to mind the people whose substantial contributions have ensured that the Festival finds itself where it is today. First and foremost Mark Peranson, Head of Programming, and Nadia Dresti, our International Head, and then Lorenzo Esposito, Sergio Fant and Aurélie Godet (“my” selection committee), Alessandro Marcionni (Pardi di domani), Carmen Werner and Olmo Giovannini (Programming Office), Martina Malacrida and Ananda Scepka (Open Doors).

I think of Locarno as a frontier festival. A festival that tries to explore what’s going on at the limits of the film spectrum, on the edges of the frame, to pick up the things that are just off camera but which somehow define the scene. Today the significance of the notion of being avant-garde has perhaps worn a little thin: it’s no longer about being the first to reach a particular spot, it’s more a question of the desire and ability to give space and visibility to neglected or insufficiently regarded films, filmmakers and film industries.
I know that the label “frontier” evokes somewhere remote and isolated, an image that could hardly be more unlike the pre-eminent position which Locarno occupies on the Festival circuit, accompanied by the generosity of our huge and loyal public. That’s why for years the Festival’s policy has been to position its mission of discovery within a program that includes mainstream cinema, but only of the kind that, despite its high production values, is not just pure spectacle, the kind that doesn’t see entertainment and intelligence as incompatible. The first signal of our adherence to that policy was the dedication of this year’s retrospective to George Cukor, not an “auteur” hailed as such by the critics, but not just a simple craftsman, either: rather the kind of filmmaker whose ideas and output question conventional wisdom, making entertaining movies but with a very far from facile and uncomplicated take on life.

In line with the Festival’s tradition and our own wish to break down barriers, we have tried to establish a dialogue between historic and contemporary cinema, between independent and mainstream productions, documentary and fiction, experimental and essay forms. The only categorical imperative was to work with diversity, take it to extremes, to the point where contradictions emerge. Behind the organization of this year’s Festival lies a concept fed by opposites: not with any intention of molding them into a single line of thought, but rather welcoming them as the different souls that make up cinema and the world. That was the thinking which led us to pay tribute to Werner Herzog, whose working processes cannot be summed up in a single film or under any one label, and to Otar Iosseliani, whose cinema is for me the very picture of freedom. Or to feature in competition directors like Sangsoo Hong, Claire Simon, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Júlio Bressane and others making their debut.

The Concorso internazionale includes 20 films, 18 of which are world premieres. There are works by young directors who are already well-known to festival-goers (Porumboiu, Serra, the Vega brothers, Mouret, Cattet-Forzani, Delbono), directors returning to Locarno (Aoyama, Gianikian-Ricci Lucchi, Imbach) or simply returning to filmmaking (Yersin, Tso chi Chang). There are new and unexpected names (Wnendt, Cretton, Pinto, Hogg, Brac). One way or another, all of them surprised us and made us feel obliged to respond to their work.

The Concorso Cineasti del presente includes 16 films, with 14 as world premieres and 14 first features. The selection emerged from a lengthy research and selection process. Rather than formal purity we were looking for imperfection and experimentation, whether in a classic narrative form or as something completely new. We are quite convinced that the picture created is one that will interest audiences and critics, hopefully raising more questions than the answers it supplies. The competition has remained reserved for first and second films only: there are 14 debut features this year. For us that’s a definite sign that the cinema continues to renew itself and that the Festival is still careful to discover and encourage new talents. The competition is open to documentary and fiction, experimental and essay films, drama and comedy, the ecstatic gaze and full immersion in surreal universes.

Piazza Grande. If the identity of a festival taking place in a country which has at least three or four souls and a plurality of cultures lies in our Piazza – the unique and inimitable picture of the cinema as a community gathering place – then the choice of titles in the section must set out to represent that community. Because film is a window onto, but above all a mirror of, the way we are in the world. Piazza Grande will be multi-lingual this year: American, British, French, Spanish, German, Danish, and – for the first time in several years – Italian. There will be 16 titles in Piazza Grande, including two dedicated to the history of the cinema. In addition to the films, the magnificent setting of Locarno’s arcaded square awaits numerous guests who will be our testimonial to cinema past, present and ongoing: Christopher Lee, Anna Karina, Faye Dunaway, Sergio Castellitto, Otar Iosseliani, Jacqueline Bisset… Beyond the famous names and faces, their presence allows us to open pages of film history that still have much to tell. One such personality is Margaret Ménégoz, head of a production concern whose commitment to promoting the concept of auteur film has been outstanding; another is Douglas Trumbull, a visionary pioneer of potential scenarios which are only now being fully tried and tested, thirty years later.

Histoire(s) du cinéma might seem just a label for a sidebar, but it expresses the identity of a festival that functions as both memory and guardian of the film history to which it belongs, but at the same time is constantly looking to the future. Alongside the films relating to the guests mentioned above, the restored and rediscovered films, the Festival will also screen Sidney Lumet’s Network, in honor of Faye Dunaway, host a homage to Anna Karina, with four of her films, as well as a tribute to the late Paulo Rocha, whose first two films (Os verdes anos, presented at Locarno 50 years ago, and Mudar de Vida) will be shown along with his last, posthumous work, Se eu fosse ladrão... Roubava.

The Fuori concorso section will feature a programming strand designed for those seeking an alternative to the Piazza Grande offerings: every night at 9pm in the PalaVideo, artists and filmmakers from the international scene will be presenting their new experimental work. The section will include 34 short and feature-length titles, some as world premieres, and will open with a film by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. Additionally, to mark the award to Werner Herzog, we are honored to present, as a world premiere, the 4 episodes that make up the new mini-series Death Row. Finally, there is the Focus on Syria, which will include films never seen before, or that were censored, courageous films often made under extremely difficult circumstances, but which nonetheless proclaim their makers’ determination to experiment with cinema and new media as a way to tell the world about the terrible ills afflicting their country.


Carlo Chatrian

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