Screen profiles the Piazza Grande and International Competition titles selected by Locarno’s incoming artistic director Giona A Nazzaro for its 2021 edition, which runs August 4-14.
100 Minutes (Rus)
Dir. Gleb Panfilov
Feted Russian director Panfilov broke onto the world stage in Locarno in 1969 when his debut feature No Path Through Fire won the Golden Leopard. It also marked a breakthrough for his now renowned actress wife Inna Churikova, who played a nurse navigating the 1917 Russian Revolution. His new feature, the first in more than a decade, explores the fate of Second World War Soviet prisoners of war, who were interned in Joseph Stalin’s notorious labour camps on their return home on charges of collaboration or treason.
Contact: Ivan Panfilov, Elephant Production Management
The Alleys (Jor-Egy-Saudi-Qat)
Dir. Bassel Ghandour
Jordanian filmmaker Ghandour co-wrote and produced Naji Abu Nowar’s 2014 ‘Bedouin western’ Theeb, which made its debut at Venice and toured the festival circuit before being Oscar nominated in 2016 for best foreign-language film. Ghandour’s feature directorial debutThe Alleys follows the residents of a claustrophobic east Amman neighbourhood where violence is a way of life. The picture won several awards last year at Cairo International Film Festival’s co-financing platform Cairo Film Connection.
Contact: Elle Driver
Dir. Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Filomarino previously played Locarno competition in 2010 with his short Diarchia, and has been a longtime second-unit director for Luca Guadagnino on titles including Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria. His second feature, the English-language Beckett, stars Tenet’s John David Washington as a US tourist on the run for his life in Greece; Alicia Vikander, Vicky Krieps and Boyd Holbrook co-star. Guadagnino serves as producer here, as he did on Filomarino’s first feature Antonia. Netflix is streaming Beckett from August 13.
Free Guy (US)
Dir. Shawn Levy
US producer and filmmaker Levy’s first directorial feature since 2014’s Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb stars Ryan Reynolds as an ordinary bankteller who realises he is actually a background character in an open world video game. The screenplay is by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, and Walt Disney is releasing around the world this summer, playing exclusively in theatres for 45 days before moving to home viewing.
Contact: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Heat (1995, US)
Dir. Michael Mann
Screening as part of a tribute to cinematographer Dante Spinotti, the recipient of the Pardo Alla Carriera achievement award, Mann’s police drama is perhaps best remembered for bringing acting legends Al Pacino and Robert De Niro face-to-face on screen for the first time. Pacino plays a cop and De Niro a bank robber in the 1995 film. Val Kilmer co-stars. Contact: Park Circus
Dir. Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writer/director Ruzowitzky’s The Inheritors won a Tiger Award at Rotterdam in 1998, and he played in Berlin competition with The Counterfeiters in 2007. His latest work is set in Vienna in 1910, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and follows a former police inspector who returns from the Great War and finds himself thrust into a murder investigation. Vienna-based FreibeuterFilm produced with Amour Fou Luxembourg.
Contact: Beta Cinema
Horizon Beautiful (Switz-Aust-Ger)
Dir. Stefan Jäger
Filmed in and around the Locarno region of Ticino, Swiss director Jäger’s Horizon Beautiful (Monte Verita) is set in 1906 and follows a young mother who, desperate to break free of suffocating social constraints, finds solace in the Monte Verita sanatorium. The film is produced by Zurich and Berlin-based Tellfilm, with Austria’s KGP Filmproduktion and Germany’s Cologne Coin Film. DCM Film Distribution will release in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
Contact: The Playmaker Munich
Ida Red (US)
Dir. John Swab
US filmmaker Swab’s fourth feature stars Oscar winner Melissa Leo (who also appeared in his third film Body Brokers) as a career criminal battling a terminal illness while serving a 25-year prison sentence in Oklahoma. Josh Hartnett, Frank Grillo and Deborah Ann Woll co-star in the film, which is produced by Swab and Jeremy Rosen’s California-based outfit Roxwell Films.
Contact: Universal Pictures Content Group
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978, US)
Dir. John Landis
US filmmaker Landis will be presented with Locarno’s Pardo d’Onore Manor award for masters of contemporary cinema ahead of a celebratory screening of the raucous 1978 classic comedy. Featuring a memorable central performance from comedian John Belushi and co-scripted by Harold Ramis, the film follows a pair of college students attempting to join a fraternity in 1962.
Contact: Park Circus
Dir. Liesl Tommy
This hotly anticipated Aretha Franklin biopic closes this year’s festival, and stars Jennifer Hudson as the legendary Queen of Soul. Hudson will belt out some of Franklin’s greatest hits from ‘Think’ and ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ to, of course, ‘Respect’, but Tommy’s film also promises to get under the skin of Franklin’s journey from gospel singing youngster to international superstar. Franklin herself was involved in the film until her death in 2018.
Contact: Universal Pictures International
Dir. Aurélie Saada
The directorial debut of Paris-born actress/musician Saada, Rose — which Saada co-wrote with Yael Langmann — follows a 78-year-old woman who discovers a new zest for life after the death of her beloved husband. Seasoned French actress Francoise Fabian, best known for Belle Du Jour, My Night At Maud’s and, more recently, Call My Agent!, plays the titular Rose. Producer Silex Film was also behind Bettina Oberli’s With The Wind, which screened in Locarno’s Piazza Grande in 2018.
Sinkhole (S Kor)
Dir. Kim Ji-hoon
Korean director Kim is no stranger to high-concept filmmaking — his 2011 filmSector 7 was the story of a sea monster that attacked oil platforms, while 2012’s The Tower saw a fire break out in a high-rise building on Christmas Eve. Sinkhole sees a house party turn into a disaster when the entire building is swallowed by the earth.
The Terminator (1984, US-UK)
Dir. James Cameron
Cameron’s groundbreaking 1984 sci-fi is being screened to celebrate the career of producer Gale Anne Hurd, the recipient of this year’s Premio Raimondo Rezzonico award for figures who have played a major role in international production. It is nearly 40 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger played the robotic role that brought him international fame.
Contact: Park Circus
Dir. Gaspar Noé
Fresh from the recent Cannes Premiere strand, Noé’s latest stars Italian filmmaker Dario Argento and Francoise LeBrun as a long-married couple struggling when one of them is diagnosed with dementia. The film plays in split screen, a technique Noé explored in 2019 drama Lux Æterna.
Contact: Esther Devos, Wild Bunch
The Walking Liberty (It)
Dir. Alessandro Rak
Italy’s Rak was a prize winner at Venice with his directorial debut The Art Of Happiness in 2013, and his Cinderella The Cat played the Lido in 2017. The Walking Liberty is set in the near future, where environmental disaster has turned Naples into an impenetrable tropical forest. It is a co-production between Italy’s Mad Entertainment and Rai Cinema, with support from the country’s Ministry of Culture.
Contact: Rai Com
After Blue (Fr)
Dir. Bertrand Mandico
Mandico’s 2017 feature debut Wild Boys garnered plaudits on the festival circuit, and his second feature After Blue (Paradis Sale) is set on a distant planet terrorised by a vicious killer. It is produced by France’s Ecce Films, also behind Antonin Peretjatko’s The Rendez-Vous Of Déjà-Vu, which played Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2013, and Benjamin Naishtat’s Rojo, which won a trio of prizes at San Sebastian in 2018.
Cop Secret (Ice)
Dir. Hannes Thor Halldorsson
A professional footballer as well as a filmmaker, Iceland’s Halldorsson has co-written his debut feature about a closeted undercover policeman who falls in love with his new partner. Audunn Blondal and Egill Einarsson play the cops. Producer is Lilja Osk Snorradottir of Pegasus Pictures, who was behind Runar Runarsson’s 2019 Locarno competition entry and youth jury award winner Echo.
Dir. Natalya Kudryashova
A troubled young woman is visited by a strange apparition in the second film from Russian actress/filmmaker Kudryashova. Her debut feature Pioneer Heroes played in Berlin’s Panorama in 2015, and she was one of seven female Russian directors to helm a segment of 2016 portmanteau film Petersburg. A Selfie. Gerda participated as a work-in-progress project for Les Arcs Industry Village in 2020.
The Giants (It)
Dir. Bonifacio Angius
After his debut Perfidia played in competition at Locarno 2014, Italian writer/director Angius follows up 2018’s Wherever You Are with his third feature The Giants. Angius also stars — and takes producing, cinematography and editing credits — in the film, which follows a group of old friends who get together in a remote country house.
Contact: Coccinelle Film Sales
Heavens Above (Serb-Ger-N Mac-Slovenia-Cro-Mont-Bos)
Dir. Srdjan Dragojevic
Serbia’s Dragojevic — who has served as a professor at Belgrade’s film academy and as an MP in the Serbian Parliament — presents three stories about miracles that happen to individuals living in a post-communist society relearning Christianity after 50 years of atheism. The filmmaker’s The Parade was a prize winner in Berlin’s Panorama in 2012.
Contact: Pluto Film
Juju Stories (Nigeria-Fr)
Dirs. CJ ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Abba T Makama, Michael Omonua
Writer/directors Obasi (whose 2018 short Hello, Rain played the BFI London Film Festival), Makama (whose satire Green White Green premiered in Toronto’s Lagos City to City programme in 2016) and Omunua (who directed zombie movie Ojuju in 2014) together form Nigerian new wave cinema collective Surreal16. Their Juju Stories is an anthology film exploring Nigerian folklore and urban legend.
Contact: Fiery Film
Dir. Peter Brunner
Brunner’s 2014 feature debut My Blind Heart played at festivals including Rotterdam, while his 2018 English-language bow To The Night premiered at Karlovy Vary. Inspired by a true story, Luzifer follows a man whose remote Alpine home is threatened by a tourist development.
Contact: Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion
Dir. Alexander Zeldovich
It has been a decade since Russian writer/director Zeldovich’s last film, the sci-fi drama Target, which made its debut at Berlin and played in competition at Sydney. For his follow-up, the filmmaker transposes the titular classic Greek tragedy to contemporary Moscow, as jaded members of the city’s elite find a way to restore their youthful vigour. Zeldovich’s drama Moscow premiered at Venice in 2000, while his Zakat played Berlin in 1990.
Contact: Reason8 Films
A New Old Play (HK-Fr)
Dir. Qiu Jiongjiong
With his latest film, Chinese writer/director Qiu — who also serves as its editor — explores 20th-century China’s tumultuous history through the memories of a dying theatre clown as he prepares to enter the afterlife. Qiu’s experimental documentary Mr Zhang Believes made its debut at Locarno in 2015.
Contact: Uluka Productions
The Odd-Job Men (Sp)
Dir. Neus Ballus
Spanish filmmaker Ballus saw both her 2013 feature debut The Plague and her 2019 follow-up Staff Only premiere at Berlin. Her third, The Odd-Job Men, follows three men — all non-actors playing themselves — over six days at a small plumbing and electrical company in Barcelona, as a young Moroccan apprentice must win over his experienced colleagues. It will be released in Spain by Filmax.
Contact: Beta Cinema
Petite Solange (Fr)
Dir. Axelle Ropert
Ropert’s fourth feature is the tale of a sensitive 12-year-old girl who is rocked by her parent’s failing marriage. Cesar-winning actress Léa Drucker (Custody) stars in the film, which is produced by Charlotte Vincent for Aurora Films, which was also behind Patric Chiha’s documentary If It Were Love, a Teddy winner at Berlin 2020. Ropert previously played in competition at Locarno in 2016, with romantic comedy The Apple Of My Eye.
Contact: mk2 Films
The River (Leb-Fr-Ger-Qat)
Dir. Ghassan Salhab
Fifteen years after his drama The Last Man played Locarno, writer/director Salhab returns with The River (Al Naher), which stars Ali Suliman and Yumna Marwan as a couple reuniting after a long separation who take refuge on a mountain when war breaks out in Lebanon. Salhab’s The Valley won the Narrative Competition at Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2014.
Contact: Alice Lesort, Les Films du Losange
The Sacred Spirit (Sp-Fr-Tur)
Dir. Chema Garcia Ibarra
Spain’s Garcia Ibarra has enjoyed festival success with shorts including 2013’s Mystery and 2019’s The Golden Legend, which both played at Berlin. His solo directorial feature debut The Sacred Spirit (Espiritu Sagrado) is the story of a ufology association whose beloved leader dies unexpectedly. The project took part in the 2019 edition of Madrid-based ECAM film school’s La Incubadora programme.
Contact: Ioanna Stais, Heretic
Secret Name (Fr)
Dir. Aurelia Georges
Georges’ The Walking Man (2007) and The Girl And The River (2014) played Cannes. Her third feature Secret Name (La Place d’Une Autre), is a loose adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ novel The New Magdalen. Maud Wyler stars as a First World War nurse who assumes the identity of a deceased wealthy woman.
Contact: Pyramide International
Soul Of A Beast (Switz)
Dir. Lorenz Merz
Having had two shorts play in Locarno’s Leopards of Tomorrow strand — The Little Samurai in 2007 and One Day And Nothing in 2008, for which he won the Silver Pardino — cinematographer/writer/director Merz premieres his latest feature in International Competition. Soul Of A Beast follows a young father who falls in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, and is produced by Switzerland’s Simon Hesse.
Contact: Hesse Film
Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (Indo-Sing-Ger)
Adapted by the Man Booker Prize-nominated Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan from his own 2014 novel, this is the tale of a tough Javanese fighter struggling to deal with his sexual impotence. Director Edwin’s 2012 film Postcards From The Zoo played in Berlin’s Competition section; the director’s own Jakarta-based outfit Palari Films produces here.
Contact: The Match Factory
Zeros And Ones (It-Ger-US)
Dir. Abel Ferrara
US filmmaker Ferrara has long been a favourite on the festival circuit — his last two works, Sportin’ Life and Siberia (both 2020), played in Venice and Berlin’s competition sections respectively. Now 70, he remains as prolific as ever and, 10 years after he was awarded the Leopard of Honour at Locarno, he returns to debut his latest work. Ethan Hawke stars as a soldier navigating the world after a post-apocalyptic siege; Cristina Chiriac and Phil Neilson co-star.
Contact: Blue Box International