Locarno director talks highlights and UK presence at the festival and looks to 2015.
Locarno festival director Carlo Chatrian has outlined some of his highlights and regrets from this year’s festival, and ambitions for next year, in an exclusive interview with ScreenDaily ahead of the event’s closing weekend.
“Experiencing cinema as a community”, is high up on the list of this year’s treats, he said.
The world premiere of Swiss film-maker Peter Luisi’s Unlikely Heroes on Wednesday (Aug 13) was “one of those nights on the Piazza where you really felt that the audience is with the film.
“There was a lot of applause and people came up to me afterwards with great enthusiasm. I think Unlikely Heroes is the kind of film which works very well because it’s strongly experiencing cinema as a community,” he continued.
He added that he had also been “very happy“ with the night on the Piazza Grande when Agnes Varda was presented with a Leopard of Honour and performed what Chatrian calls her ‘Leopard Dance’.
“Even though this year‘s Piazza Grande programme may have looked a little biased towards France, we managed to bring variety into the programme each evening through the special guests from countries like Germany, Italy, Spain and China on stage,” he explained.
He said that another major moment during this year’s festival had been when the veteran German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl recited a poem on receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, and he had considered it a very touching gesture when producer Nansun Shi dedicated the Premio Raimondo Rezzonico to all of the people who had collaborated with her on her films.
Locarno was surprisingly absent of UK films this year, but not for want of trying, confirmed Chatrian.
The world premiere of Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson’s 36-minute film Abandoned Goods, screening in the Leopards of Tomorrow competition, was the sole new production holding up the British flag at this year’s festival.
“We tried as usual to find some UK films, but it’s my perception that UK cinema was particularly strong last year,“ Chatrian explained.
“Of course, we never select films just because of their origin, but rather because of their quality. I had identified two titles to invite but they decided to go elsewhere. I feel sorry about that because UK cinema has always played an important role at Locarno.”
Asia growth in 2015
Locarno has always been welcoming to Asian, and particularly Chinese, cinema. That presence is likely to be even higher next year, according to Chatrian.
In 2016 the festival will become one of the first partners of the new European-Chinese programme Bridging The Dragon.
In cooperation with the festival and the Industry Days, Bridging The Dragon will organise a development workshop for a limited number of projects between Europe and China.
Chatrian told Screen that he would be very keen to show a film by Tsui Hark or Johnnie To on the Piazza Grande or a film by the ‘new’ Johnnie To since, according to Chatrian, the Chinese and Japanese industries have the kind of films that would be a perfect fit for Locarno’s open-air venue.
The festival director admitted that the Asian push would also bring challenges as the Industry Days strand would be pushed to the limits of its organisational capacity and there could be a danger of overloading the programme of events for professionals.
Apart from the Industry Days’ line-up of screenings, panel discussions, workshops such as Step.In, the Carte Blanche showcase of ‘works in progress’ and the Open Doors co-production lab, next year’s festival will also see the return of the PUENTES – Europe/Latin America Producers Workshops coming to Locarno for the second workshop of its 2014/15 programme after the first is held in Montevideo at the end of November 2014.
This year’s festival will in part be remembered for the controversy surrounding Roman Polanski’s cancelled visit.
Local newspapers have continued to devote substantial column space to opinion pieces, editorials and readers’ letters on the pros and cons of the festival’s decision to invite the veteran Polish director.
One Locarno veteran suggested that the furore unleashed by local conservative politicians at Polanski’s invitation was directed more at festival president Marco Solari as part of ongoing regional political wranglings unconnected with the festival itself.
Locarno titles at the autumn’s Viennale
In other news, Locarno debuts are now finding their feet elsewhere.
Argentine film-maker Raúl Perrone’s Favula, which had its world premiere in Locarno’s Signs of Life sidebar, and Joel Potrykus’ Buzzard, the last film in his AnimalTrilogy and one of the entries in the Filmmakers of the Present competition, are among the first titles confirmed for the Propositions programme at this year’s Viennale (October 23 - November 6, 2014).
The Propositions selection gathering fiction, documentaries and avantgarde works will also include Göran Hugo Olsson’s Concerning Violence, Locarno jury member Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe (Plemya), Jan Soldat’s Der Unfertige, Adirley Queirós’ Branco Sai, Preto Fica, Mikheil Antadze’s The Many Faces Of Comrade Gelovani, and Chris Gude’s Mambo Cool.
Highlights at the 2014 edition will range from a 45-title retrospective dedicated to the legendary director John Ford through the first ever festival tribute to the US-Danish actor Viggo Mortensen and a showcase of the Algerian photographer and film-maker Tariq Teguia, to an alternate history of the 16mm format.
Longoni heads Ticino’s Film Commission
Former Locarno festival press chief Doris Longoni has been appointed as the CEO of the newly established Southern Switzerland Film Commission (SSFC) to attract local and international film-makers to shoot in the Ticino region.
The SSFC was set up after a recommendation made by a working group including the Ticino Film and Audiovisual Association (AFAT), the Locarno Film Festival, the group of independent director and screenwriters from Italian-speaking Switzerland, and the Ticino Office of Tourism.
The region’s locations have often been used for documentaries, features and commercials, most notably for the opening sequence of James Bond 007 - Goldeneye which was shot at the Verzasca Dam.