Europa Cinemas Label awarded to Tableau Noir; Fipresci prize goes to What Now? Remind Me. Talk of Marco Mueller’s return with new Palazzo project.

Scroll down for full list of winners

Catalan director Albert Serra was the surprise winner of this year’s Golden Leopard in Locarno for a historical drama with a difference, Story Of My Death.

Described by Serra by as “a movie about the beauty of horror, and also about the horror of beauty,” Story Of My Death imagines an encounter between Casanova of 18th rationalism and Count Dracula from the romantic 19th century.

French co-producer Capricci Films is handling international sales on the Spanish-French co-production which will be screened in Toronto’s Wavelengths programme next month.

However, films tipped for Leopard statuettes such as Claire Simon’s Gare du Nord and David Wnendt’s Wetlands were passed over by the International Jury headed by Filipino director Lav Diaz. Moreover, local Ticino actress Carla Juri, who had been feted by festival audiences and critics for her bravura performance as Helen Memel in Wetlands lost out to American actress Brie Larson, who was awarded the Best Actress Leopard for her role in Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12.

Nevertheless, Juri, who had been Switzerland’s Shooting Star at the Berlinale this year and received a Swiss Film Prize Quartz for Dällebach Kari in March, is now sure to have left a lasting impression on the international industry after the presentation of Wetlands.

Apart from the Golden Leopard, the Iberian peninsula also attracted the Jury’s Special Prize for What Now? Remind Me by Portugal’s Joaquim Pinto, while US filmmaker Destin Cretton’s SXSW award-winner Short Term 12 picked up the Best Actress Leopard, a Special Mention from the International Jury, and the Ecumenical Jury’s Prize.

The MEDIA-backed exhibitors’ network Europa Cinemas awarded its label in Locarno for the first time this year to a documentary Tableau Noir about the closing of a school in the Swiss mountains, the first film by French-Swiss film-maker Yves Yersin for 15 years.

In addition, the international film critics’ association FIPRESCI presented its prize to Portugal’s Joaquim Pinto for What Now? Remind Me which chronicles a year of his life undergoing clinical trials to combat his HIV and Hepatitis C.

Chatrian - no ‘big surprises’

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, Locarno’s artistic director Carlo Chatrian looked back on his first edition ahead of the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. ¨There weren’t any big surprises,” he said.”neither during the selection process nor at the festival itself. It’s true that there was a difference between what I imagined it would be like and the reality, especially in the first weekend when I tried to introduce all of the two competitions’ films as well as be on the Piazza Grande. That squeezed me a little bit, but I enjoyed it a lot!”

“There was a really good atmosphere with people talking with one another in a friendly and informal way - that’s what I wanted to achieve at the festival,” he continued, pointing out that “the bridge between the sections sought to create a common line either in terms of content, such as the issue of the identity of a family, community or a country, or in terms of language because there were films working with narration in a very original and strange way in both competitions as well as the programme strand called Signs of Life.”

Chatrian explained that this year’s tributes - to such luminaries of cinema as Christopher Lee, Jacqueline Bisset, Faye Dunaway and Anna Karina - aimed to cast the net further than than just actors or directors

“Douglas Trumbull was the best example to start with for those people ‘behind the scenes’ who have had such an influence on films,” he argued. “Douglas is still very much in the middle of things and keeping up to date with developments.”

Moreover, Chatrian had been pleased that Georgian film-maker Otar Iosseliani has accepted his invitation to come to Locarno because “he has a unique voice and style , works very organically and with the real tools of cinema.”

“I really appreciated what he said about Locarno being the place that supports cinematic art,” Chatrian added, although it must be said that the veteran director would have done better to have dispensed with his tirade against festivals like Cannes and Venice after receiving his Honorary Leopard on the Piazza Grande.

Palazzo del Cinema - talk of the town

Meanwhile, the plans for the Locarno’s €27.5m Palazzo del Cinema were one of the talking points at cocktails during the festival’s 11 days.

If construction work begins by the end of this year, the transformation of the 19th century Palazzo Scolastico by London architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo with local partner Dario Franchini could be ready in time for the festival’s 68th edition in 2015.

It is intended that the Palazzo will house the film festival’s administrative centre, three cinemas, archives and a Centre for Audiovisual and Cinematographic Competence.

Marco Mueller, who was Locarno’s artistic director for eight years from 1992 to 2000 and even spoke of a Casa del cinema during his tenure, was hired as a consultant to prepare a study on proposed activities at the Palazzo and will deliver his deliberations by the end of this month.
At the same time, there has been speculation in the local press that Mueller - who will be heading up his second (and possibly last) outing as director of the Rome Film Festival in November - could be appointed as the Palazzo’s director. One website suggested that this could mark “the return of the prodigal son to Swiss soil” (Mueller is already lecturing in Architecture at the USI University in nearby Lugano).

¨I hope [the Palazzo] will be ready soon because I think it will bring something that Locarno needs as far as infrastructure is concerned,” Chatrian told ScreenDaily. “It won’t solve the festival’s problems regarding screens because I understand that there will only be three small screens. Our main task will be to renovate the FEVI as this is our main venue.”

Step In - ‘a fruitful experience’

After its launch last year, the Industry Office’s Step In forum of discussions hosted around 70 industry professionals to discuss best practices and future strategies in distribution and exhibition in and outside of Europe.

According to one participant who had attended the 2012 event, this year’s Open Doors was “much better, although one still has to ask what the initiative’s goal is, otherwise the discussions just go around in circles.”

“It’s always interesting to know what the general thoughts are of our industry, what settles, and what remains disputed,” sales agent Esther van Messel observed, while Fatima Djoumer of Europa Cinemas welcomed the “rich and open exchanges about questions and problems raised at the heart of the film business.”

Distributor Tobias Seiffert of Germany’s Senator Film, who participated in the discussion on marketing and promotion in small markets, described the event as “a very fruitful experience.”

“Given the differences of the of the various international markets, it was great to not only get a ‘numbers’ snapshot of, but an actual first-hand and in-depth working with European films experience from the guests and participants in their various markets. We all agreed on that, on the one hand, it is has never been tougher to reach audiences, with, on the other hand, having so much actual distribution options to go with.”

Andy Whittaker of UK’s Dogwoof Films added: “Clearly, each territory is different and faces their individual nuances and local languages, though what lessons could we learn from the studios? One of the areas to address is who should take up the challenge of co-ordinator, and, in particular, is this the future role of the sales agent?”

As another roundtable showed, distribution in Central and Eastern European depends on the support from local authorities and the MEDIA Programme.

“The other major issue is the distribution of East European films in neighbouring and other European countries,” Estonia’s Riina Sildos explained. “The theatrical release of these films is almost non-existent due to the tough competition in the market, the fact that more films are produced and very low marketing/PA budgets. New innovative solutions of distribution for Eastern-European films have to be created.”

And young Hungarian distributor Gábor Böszörményi of Mozinet noted that discussion had centred for some years on the possibilities that lay in the digitisation of the cinemas, “but [we have] only started to experience the dark side of these technical changes” such as the shortening lifespan of films and the oversupply of small films in the cinemas which don’t draw the audience.

“Distributing has become quite cheap leading to the increase of films sometimes distributed without any marketing spend or any real demand for them,” he argued. “Some of the arthouse cinemas can’t resist the temptation to screen Hollywood movies that now became available for them and others only go for the big festival hits - these both lead to the loss of their character and eventually the loss of their highly cultivated audience.”

“These trends are even stronger in Central and Eastern Europe where the support system for the cinemas and the distributors are really weak or even non-existing,” Böszörmenyi concluded.

2014’s edition of Open Doors

Although not as yet confirmed, ScreenDaily understands that the 2014 edition of Locarno’s Open Doors co-production lab will be dedicated to English-speaking Africa - from Nigeria and Ghana and Kenya in the north to Botswana and South Africa in the south.

This would follow 2012’s spotlight on sub-Saharan Francophone Africa and previous editions dedicated to the Maghreb and the Mashrek. Submissions for the 2014 edition can be entered from this autumn.

Locarno 2013 winners

International Competition

Golden Leopard
Story of My Death by Albert Serra, Spain/France

Jury Special Prize
What Now? Remind Me by Joaquim Pinto, Portugal

Leopard for Best Director
Hong Sangsoo for Our Suhni, South Korea

Leopard for Best Actress
Brie Larson for Short Term 12 by Destin Cretton, United States

Leopard for Best Actor
Fernando Bacilio for The Mute by Daniel Vega and Diego Vega, Peru/France/Mexico

Special Mentions
Short Term 12 by Destin Cretton, United States
Tableau Noir by Yves Yersin, Switzerland

Ecumenical Jury Prize
Short Term 12 by Destin Cretton, United States

Ecumenical Jury Prize - Special Mention
Tableau Noir by Yves Yersin, Switzerland

FIPRESCI - International Film Critics’ Prize
What Now? Remind Me by Joaquim Pinto, Portugal

Europa Cinemas Label
Tableau Noir by Yves Yersin, Switzerland

Film-makers of the Present Competition

Golden Leopard - Premio George Foundation
Manakamana by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, Nepal/United States

Award for Best Emerging Director
Coast Of Death by Lois Patiño, Spain

Jury Special Award Ciné+ Cineasti del presente
Mouton by Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone, France

Special Mention
By The River by Nontawat Numbenchapol, Thailand

First Feature Competition

Leopard for Best First Feature
Mouton by Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone, France

Special Mention
Manakamana by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, Nepal/United States

Leopards of Tomorrow
International Competition

Pardino d’oro for the Best International Short Film
Raffael’s Way by Alessandro Falco, Italy/Spain

Pardino d’argento
Zima by Cristina Picchi, Russia

Locarno short film nominee for the European Film Awards - Premio Pianifica
Zima by Cristina Picchi, Russia

Film und Video Untertitelung Prize
Tadpoles by Ivan Tan, Singapore

Special Mention
Endorphin by Reza Gamini, Iran

National Competition

Pardino d’oro for Best Swiss Short Film
The Bet by Michele Pennetta, Switzerland

Pardino d’argento Swiss Life
Vigia by Marcel Barelli, Switzerland/France

Action Light Award for Best Swiss Hope
La Fille aux Feuilles by Marina Rosset, Switzerland

Piazza Grande

Prix du Public UBS
Gabrielle by Louise Archambault, Canada