A Festival Without Borders

in 65th Locarno International Film Festival

by Minou Moshiri

The 65th edition of the Locarno International Film Festival, according to its French director for the third year running Olivier Pere, was to be “an adventure”, a film lover’s adventure, the discovery of new auteur filmmakers. And it was. Many of the selected works existed on the borders of two genres: fiction and documentary. We saw classic narratives, cinematographic essays and documentaries whose “tone” was very free.

New filmmakers and unknown filmmakers rubbed shoulders with familiar names such as French cinema’s Jean-Claude Brisseau, who was present with his film The Girl From Nowhere (La fille de nulle part). Also, Canadian-Swiss documentary filmmaker Peter Mettler screened his The End of Time, and 30-year-old Mexican director Nicola Pereda showed his recent movie Greatest Hits (Los mejores temas), which certainly deserves some comments. In Nicolas Pereda’s film, fiction, documentary, and experimentalism co-exist, not only in the same scene but in the same take. His two protagonists, Gabino Rodriguez and Teresa Sanchez, who play mother and son and who are the axiom of Mexican cinema, are simply superb in their acting. The theme, typical of Mexican culture, is parental responsibility: the father returns home after having left his family decades earlier. Pereda starts a discussion about reality and how we viewers relate to it. We do not know how much of the dialogue consists of the actors speaking as their characters, and how much about themselves. Why is the character of the father played by two actors? Why are some scenes repeated? But all these questions and doubts add interesting and philosophical dimensions to Pereda’s film, which make it very noteworthy.

Most other filmmakers selected this year are unknowns. On the other hand, independent American cinema had the lion’s share in this year’s competition, with no less than six titles in the international competition: Craig Zobel’s Compliance and Bradley Rust Aray’s Jack and Diane, to name only a couple.

Switzerland also figured prominently. Apart from the breathtaking The End of Time, a satire by Simon Baumann and Andreas Pfiffner — their first feature documentary, called Image Problem — competed in the main section.

An Excellence Award was presented to veteran British actress Charlotte Rampling and her latest film I, Anna, a noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale  who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case, was screened. Previous recipients of this Excellence Award include Oleg Menchikov, Susan Sarandon, Michel Piccoli, Toni Servillo, Chiara Mastroianni, and in 2011, Isabelle Huppert.

And two of the many illustrious guests who attended the festival were Alain Delon and Harry Belafonte, who each received a Lifetime Achievement Award on the Piazza Grande. A retrospective of Otto Preminger’s work, a Filmmakers of the Present sidebar section, a revised and extended short films competition made up films of all genres were also part of a festival without borders animating the beautiful shores of Lake Maggiore.