Locarno’s top award, the Golden Leopard (Pardo d’oro), has been awarded by the international jury headed by Singaporean film-maker Eric Choo to Li Hongqi for his third feature Winter Vacation.
This is the second year in a row that the festival’s grand prize has gone to a film by a Chinese film-maker after last year’s She, A Chinese by Xiaolu Guo.
The story of four idle adolescents hanging out together in a village in Northern China on the last day of their vacation also received the FIPRESCI Prize and a special mention from the ecumenical jury.
The distinction was also a pat on the back for Locarno as well since Winter Vacation had been pitched as one of the projects at Locarno’s Open Doors Factory last year when the co-production gathering was dedicated to Greater China.
Moreover, the Golden Leopard is Li Hongqi’s second prize from Locarno as he won the NetPac Award there in 2005 for his debut feature So Much Rice.
And another film from China – Xu Xin’s impressive six-hour documentary Karamay, which is banned in his home country, also found favour with several juries, picking up the junior jury’s first prize and special mentions from the FIPRESCI, ecumenical and FICC/IFFS juries.
At the same time one of the two Romanian films in the International Competition, Marian Crisan’s Morgen, was the festival’s other big winner.
Crisan’s debut about illegal immigrants trying to cross the Romania-Hungary border won the special jury prize for the second best film, the ecumenical prize and the International Federation of Film Societies’ FICC/IFFS Prize, as well as an award from the junior jury.
Meanwhile Canadian Denis Cote’s latest feature Curlingpicked up two Silver Leopards, one for best director and one for best actor for Emmanuel Bilodeau.
Two years ago Cote, who will have a special tribute dedicated to his work at this year’s Viennale in October, was awarded the Leopard for best director for his third feature Elle Veut Le Chaos.
Meanwhile, the Leopard for best actress was given to Serbian actress Jasna Duricic for her performance in Oleg Novkovic’s White White World (Beli Beli Svet), which also picked up the CICAE Prix Art & Essai.
The international jury of the film-makers of the present competition, headed by former BAFICI director Eduardo Anti, presented its Golden Leopard to Emmanuelle Demoris’ documentary Paraboles, while the Special Cine Cinema Jury Prize went to Verena Paravel and JP Sniadecki’s Foreign Parts – also the winner of the Leopard for the best first feature.
Other prizes included the UBS Audience Award, which was presented to Eran Riklis’ The Human Resources Manager as the film attracting the most votes from cinema-goers attending the nightly open-air screenings on the Piazza Grande, and SRG SSR Idie Suisse/Semaine De La Critique Prize for Finnish film-maker Joonas Neuvonen’s Reindeer Spotting – Escape From Santaland, which is being handled internationally by Autlook Sales.
The Piazza Grande award went to Rare Exports from Finland.
After the awards ceremony, Olivier Père’s first edition as artistic director closed on Saturday evening  on the Piazza Grande with the world premiere of Swiss documentary film-maker Paul Riniker’s debut feature Little Paradise (Sommervogel).
The festival organisation reported at the weekend that the total number of spectators for the 63rd edition had fallen from 157,057 in 2009 to 148,436 this year. Attendance in 2009 dropped 12.8% against the previous year.
“This decrease was naturally mainly caused by the Piazza Grande results [52,300 spectators compared to 58,100 in 2009], which were affected by four nights of rain or cold weather,” the festival said, adding that there had been “excellent attendance in the theatres, with stable results despite the substantial reduction in the number of films [280 in this year’s programme compared to 397 in 2009] and one less screen [Cinema Otello].”
Before the final festivities began Pere cleared up one burning question that had occupied many festival-goers over the past 11 days concerning the artistic director’s seeming predilection for white suits.
“In my first year at Directors Fortnight, I had one,” he told Screen Daily. “And in the second year, I had two. But, in Locarno, I have three and they are different shades of white.”
“And then I appeared in dark blue for the Open Doors roundtable. You have to surprise even with clothes – it would be boring just being in white.”
A full list of the prizes can be found at www.pardo.ch.