This year’s Golden Leopard in Locarno was awarded to Chinese novelist-filmmaker Xiaolu Guo for the UK-German-French co-production She, A Chinese.
The award for Guo came appropriately in the year when the festival’s Open Doors co-production event was dedicated to Greater China where the prolific filmmaker also pitched her new feature project Ufo In Her Eyes, adapted from her latest novel of the same name.
This was the third Chinese film since 1998 to receive Locarno’s top honour after Lü Yue’s M. Zhao in 1998 and Wang Shuo’s Father in 2000.
The 62nd edition, the final Locarno festival with Frederic Maire as artistic director, closed on Saturday evening with the world premiere of Byambasuren Davaa’s The Two Horses of Genghis Khan on the Piazza Grande after the awards ceremony.
The International Competition jury headed by filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter awarded the Special Jury Prize and Best Director Award to Russian director Alexei Mizgirev for Buben. Baraban, but Polish-born Urszula Antoniak’s feaure debut Nothing Personal was the festival’s big winner.
The Dutch-Irish co-production, which was sold by Bavaria Film International to Switzerland’s Filmcoopi during the festival, picked up the Best Actress Silver Leopard for female lead Lotte Verbeek, the Leopard for Best First Feature, as well the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, the Art & Essai CICAE Prize, the Youth Jury Prize and a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury.
Meanwhile, Filippos Tsitos’ Plato’s Academy (Akadimia Platonos) took home the Best Actor Silver Leopard for Antonis Kafetzopoulos as well as prizes from the Youth and Ecumenical Juries.
As expected, Christoph Schaub’s Julia’s Disappearance received the most votes from the Piazza Grande open-air audience to be named the winner of the UBS Audience Award. Boasting a stellar cast including Corinna Harfouch, Bruno Ganz, Stefan Kurt and Sunnyi Melles, the film has attracted bids from such distributors as Germany’s Prokino and Universum Film and Austria’s Filmladen.
Meanwhile, the Piazza Grande Award went to Detlev Buck’s love story Same Same But Different. International distribution rights for the drama inspired by Benjamin Prüfer’s autobiographical report were acquired by Films Distribution shortly before the world premiere last Thursday.
Other films reportedly attracting interest from sales agents included the competition film Au Voleur by first-time director Sarah Leonor and Yves Hinant’s documentary Kill The Referee (Les Arbitres). But there were no evident “buzz” films becoming the talk of the festival, and many complained about the general level of this year’s Competition and Piazza Grande.
Indeed, the Industry Office reported that there were 50 fewer buyers and sales agents attending this year - 160, down from 210 last year - with noticeable absences from the UK and US and Eastern Europe. Several films screening in the International Competition or Piazza Grande programme came and left without a sales agent attached.
Speaking to ScreenDaily.com about his fourth and final edition, artistic director Frédéric Maire said that “this year’s festival has been one of contrasts: on the one hand, we had very commercial fare like the Pokemon film and then really experimental material like Pippo Delbono’s La Paura [shot with a mobile phone].”
Maire admitted that this year had been particularly busy for him as artistic director with the staging of the Manga Impact retrospective: “It wasn’t a retrospective where you just have one director. Each day we had a new delegation with 20 Japanese people to know, greet and discuss with. But it was very satisfying to have them all here!”
While the future artistic director Olivier Père purposely kept a low profile during the festival, the present incumbent gave some tips to his successor who takes up his post on September 1. “Naturally, each director does the festival in his own way,” Maire said. “But when I look back at [past artistic directors] like Freddy Buache, David Streiff or Marco Mueller, I feel that we have all tried to do the same thing: to defend diversity, new trends and new directors. That is the tradition and core of the festival. [Next year] will be the Olivier Père festival, but if he maintains this idea and continuity, there will be no problem.”
The full list of winners can be found at www.pardo.ch.