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Locarno: the personal touch

In the same way they say dogs can look like their owners, film festivals can take on the temperament of their artistic director.

Some festival directors and festivals are haughty with huge egos, some are party-hard hipsters wanting to reinvent the wheel.

Whenever I bump into Carlo Chatrian, who has been at the helm of the Locarno Film Festival for two years, he’s smart yet friendly and gushing with film recommendations.

Those qualities are reflected in the Locarno festival itself. It is a film lover’s festival - with an edge. It may have huge Piazza Grande screenings but it doesn’t have the looming ego of some other big festivals.

Locarno manages to walk the tightrope of presenting thought-provoking and exciting new voices while offering impeccable retrospectives. There is the feeling of wanting to connect the past and present, to “look at the development of cinema in general”, as Chatrian says.

Industry Days, run by Nadia Dresti and her colleagues, also makes Locarno an important stop for the industry; this year’s Open Doors revisits Sub-Saharan Africa to present a range of diverse voices; and the Carte Blanche programme offers networking opportunities with the country of the moment, Brazil. Plus the STEP IN programme opens up to become more global.

Sitting in the Piazza Grande on a clear summer night is one of the great pleasures of the festival calendar. It’s not just a pretty setting, it’s a feeling of being among several thousand people who love film (and who appreciate that the projection and sound are better than 99% of outdoor venues around the world).

Will there be a more sumptuous setting to watch The Leopard as part of the Titanus retrospective? And a scoop of gelato won’t hurt the mood.

Wendy Mitchell is Editor of Screen International

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