The international jury headed by Portuguese producer Paolo Branco presented the festival’s top honour to Argentinian-born Milagros Mumenthaler for her debut feature Back To Stay (Abrir Puertas Y Ventanas).
The story of three sisters trying to come to terms with the death of their grandmother also earned the Silver Leopard for best actress for Maria Canale, the FIPRESCI Prize, and a special mention from the ecumenical jury.
The Match Factory is handling international sales on the Argentine-Swiss co-production, which had been supported by a writer’s residency from the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation and will be released theatrically in Switzerland by Look Now! Prior to Mumenthaler’s film, the last Latin American production to receive the Golden Leopard was Parque Vía by Mexico’s Enrique Rivero in 2008.
Meanwhile, the jury’s Special Golden Leopard went to Japan’s Shinji Aoyama for his film Tokyo Koen and his outstanding career, and the special jury prize for the second best film was presented to Israeli director Nadav Lapid for Policeman (Hashoter).
At the same time, Romanian filmmaker Adrian Sitaru picked up two Silver Leopards – best director and best actor for Bogdan Dumitrache – for his second feature Best Intentions (Din Dragoste Cu Cele Mai Bune Intenti), and a special mention was bestowed on Mia Hansen-Love’s third feature Un Amour De Jeunesse.
The international jury of the Filmmakers Of The Present Competition, headed by German filmmaker Christoph Hochhäusler, presented its Golden Leopard to Alessandro Comodin’s L’Estate Di Giacomo, while the Special ciné + jury prize went to another Argentinian filmmaker Santiago Mitre, for his feature debut The Student (El Estudiante).
Meanwhile, the ecumenical jury awarded its prize to Swiss filmmaker Fernand Melgar’s Vol Spécial about immigrants awaiting deportation by “special flight” at the detention centre in Frambois in Switzerland.
Melgar’s latest film was the first Swiss documentary ever to be invited to compete in Locarno’s international competition and also received the first prize from the junior jury. Melgar’s previous documentary The Fortress – about a Swiss registration and processing centre for asylum-seekers – had won the Golden Leopard in Locarno’s Filmmakers Of The Present Competition in 2008.
Other prizes this year included the UBS Audience Award, which was presented to Canadian Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar (Bachir Lazhar); the CICAE Prix Art & Essai for Marco van Geffen’s Among Us (Onder Ons); SRG SSR Idée Suisse/Semaine De La Critique Prize for Ulrich Grossenbacher’s documentary A Glorious Mess (Messies, Ein Schönes Chaos); and the International Federation Of Film Societies’ Don Quijote Prize for Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio’s fiction feature Seven Acts Of Mercy (Sette Opere Di Misericordia), with a special mention for Anca Damian’s animated documentary Crulic – The Path To Beyond (Crulic – Drumul Spre Dincolo).
Following the awards ceremony on Locarno’s Piazza Grande, Olivier Père’s second edition as artistic director closed on Saturday evening  with the world premiere of French filmmaker Stéphane Robelin’s second fiction feature And If We All Lived Together? (Et Si On Vivait Tous Ensemble?)
According to the Swiss agency sda, the festival organisation reported at the weekend that provisional figures up to Friday evening showed that the total number of spectators for the 64th edition was up 8% on the previous year. There had been 7,000 more people attending the open-air screenings of the Piazza Grande compared to 2010, which translated into a 14% increase in attendance for this section of the festival, while the festival’s indoor venues reported 4,000 more admissions; a 5% year-on-year increase.
Speaking to sda on Saturday, festival president Marco Solari said that this year’s edition had surpassed even his high expectations. “The pressure grows with the success,” he noted as he looked ahead to 2012.
A full list of the prizes can be found here.