67th Locarno International Film Festival
Switzerland, August 6 - August 16 2014
Now in its 67th year, the Locarno Film Festival takes place each August in a charming town in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, against the mighty backdrop of the Alps. This year’s festival included such illustrious guests as Agnès Varda, Mia Farrow, Juliette Binoche and Jean-Pierre Léaud, who all received special awards. Roman Polanski was scheduled to join them, but cancelled at the last minute in the face of public protest.
Outdoor screenings on the Piazza Grande are central to the festival: each night, one or more films are presented on a huge screen to an audience of some 8,000 spectators. In the event of rain (and what an event it was this year, with a 50-year record of over 13 cm falling in just one day), shuttle buses are on hand to take audiences to a local conference venue which serves in place of a permanent home for festival screenings.
While crowds are a sure sign of a film-loving public, Locarno audiences demonstrate great patience as well as devotion as they queue in hot and tightly-packed conditions for screenings from which people are often turned away for lack of seats. For those who make it inside the larger venues, including the Piazza Grande itself, strong-armed security guards are on hand to keep people away from vast reserved sections of the best seats, which remain empty if there are fewer special guests than anticipated.
Lav Diaz was the darling of the 2014 festival, taking its highest honour, the Golden Leopard, for From What Was Before, his 5½ hour portrait of a Philippine village in the 1970s, where rising levels of fear and distrust anticipate the arrival of military occupiers sent in by dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The film also took the FIPRESCI prize, as well as the Don Quijote Prize of the International Federation of Film Societies. Pedro Costa won Best Director for his artistically accomplished meditation on old age, memory and military rule in the Cape Verde set Cavalo Dinheiro. Best actress went to ArianeLabed who plays the only female sailor on board a cargo ship in Fidelio: L’Odyssée d’Alice, while Artem Bystrov took best actor for his performance as a plumber who stands up to corruption in The Fool. A special jury prize went to Listen Up Philip a cautionary comedy revolving around an arrogant young novelist.
In Locarno’s ‘Cineasti del presente’ competition, the Golden Leopard went to Navajazo (dir. Ricardo Silva, Mexico), a docu-fiction on the struggle for survival in the border town of Tijuana. The ‘Opera Prima’ award for best first feature went to Songs from the North (dir. Soon-mi Yoo), a portrait of North Korea. The festival also hosted its wildly popular ‘Semaine de la critique’ programme of 7 of the year’s best documentaries as selected by the Swiss Association of Film Journalists. They made an award ex aequo to 15 Corners of the World (dir. Zuzanna Solakiewicz) and La Mort du Dieu Serpent (dir. Damien Froidevaux).
In addition to its competitive sections, the festival hosted several retrospectives, the most ample devoted to Italian production company Titanus. The festival also supports the future of independent filmmaking in the global South and East with its Open Doors co-production lab, this year focused on the English and Portugese-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa. (Alison Frank)
Locarno International Film Festival: www.pardolive.ch/