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Locarno Film Festival: The anniversary edition failed

The stars are elsewhere, as are the important films: Locarno hasn’t been on for a few years. But the festival has never looked as old as it did on its 75th anniversary.

Little light, lots of shadows: The Locarno Film Festival needs more glamor again.

Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Press/Alessandro Crinari

The world is changing. Nothing ever changes in Locarno. Yes, in addition to the grotto, there is now this fish salad from Hawaii called the Poké Bowl, and in one of the cafés on the Piazza Grande, as will soon be the case everywhere, “specialty coffee” is brewed instead of coffee. But as a rule, the espresso costs two francs fifty and all is well with the world. Like the city, its film festival also rejects the hypes, the feigned excitement, the fuss. It’s very nice, it should stay that way.

Nevertheless, something has to change. Because the Locarno Film Festival celebrated its 75th edition this year, and it looked old. For several years now, it has hardly set any accents, internationally it no longer plays the role in which it sees itself. Because of its history and defined as an “A-Festival” with the (quite meaningless) stamp of a film producers’ association, Locarno places itself as the most important festival right behind the most important ones, i.e. behind Cannes, Venice, Toronto and the Berlinale. The glory of the past has long since faded.

Things got off to a bad start after the risotto

It’s not just a question of the film stars who avoid Locarno like a cat avoids the old fish. But also. For example, a film festival has just started in Sarajevo: Cannes winner Ruben Östlund is there, American actor Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) is showing his directorial debut, and the crowd’s favorite Dane, Mads Mikkelsen, is also coming.

What does Sarajevo have that Locarno doesn’t have? Vice versa: Locarno has the Piazza Grande – where else in the world is there a bigger, more beautiful cinema? The best filmmakers would have to fight to be allowed to show their films here. Why doesn’t the festival management manage to make their premium package, the XXL screen, famous? Even the Filmpodium in Zurich gets a Tilda Swinton, Locarno has to make do with Matt Dillon. Nothing against him. But he has seen better days and was also the guest of honor at the festival in Vienna last year; is it passed around?

The 75th Locarno Film Festival got off to a bad start with «Bullet Train». You can program an action movie on the piazza. But not this and not this evening. As we heard, after the risotto reception, the brutal man got angry with many people, the parliamentarians present as well as the mere mortals. The only possible explanation why the tear was chosen: It was hoped that leading actor Brad Pitt would come. He was in Berlin for the German premiere, he wouldn’t have had to go far. Still, he didn’t let himself be persuaded.

San Sebastian instead of Locarno

Festival President Marco Solari says the films are the stars. Which film this year should have been a star? You don’t necessarily need big names, you can also score points with topics. The Swiss documentary about the feminist Erica Jong, who demanded women’s right to free sexuality, was certainly not perfect. But that’s what people talk about. Instead of on the piazza, the festival management stowed the film at “Fuori concorso”, what do you think?

The stars are elsewhere, as are many films. For example in September in San Sebastian: When Ulrich Seidl, the Chilean crowd pleaser Sebastián Lelio (“Gloria”) or the Korean festival favorite Hong San-soo decide to show their new works at the Bahia de La Concha instead of on Lake Maggiore, it has to Give Giona A. Nazzaro food for thought.

Nazzaro, the artistic director, is a courageous man. He also once wears yellow pants and a leopard print bow tie. He shows more courage in the competition than in the Piazza Grande, last year the selection was fresh and diverse, this year there was one or the other edge, for example the fetish film “Piaffe” by the Israeli Ann Oren; also the debut of Valentin Merz from Zurich, who showed homoerotic playfulness (“De Noche los Gatos Son Pardos”). But a few dazzling competition entries are not enough, the world has changed, new festivals are challenging old ones. In Locarno, thanks to the Piazza Grande, you might have the most beautiful place in the world. Should it die in beauty?

Surprising winner

about · Golden Leopard for Brazil: Júlia Murat’s feature film “Regra 34” is about a law student who lives out sexual fantasies on the internet, but not only there. It was not expected that the jury led by Geneva-based producer Michel Merkt would award the film the main prize, but a favorite had not emerged in what was, as usual, a demanding competition. Three prizes for best director, best actress (Daniela Marín Navarro) and best actor (Reinaldo Amien Gutiérrez) went to “Tengo sueños eléctricos” by Valentina Maurel from Costa Rica. Zurich native Valentin Merz received a special mention as debut director for “De Noche los Gatos Son Pardos”.

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