Independent cinema to question the world

Locarno Festival, August 3 to 13

Sergio Ferrari, from Locarno, Switzerland

On August 3, the curtain rises on the Locarno Film Festival, which returns to its full form after an edition canceled (2020) and another reduced by half (2021) due to the pandemic.

The Piazza Grande with its giant screen. Photo Locarno Festival

With a wide and varied programme, Locarno thus seeks to defend its place in the top 10 of the European ranking, rubbing shoulders with the list of the greats just behind Cannes, Venice, Berlin and San Sebastián (

Giona Narrazo, artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival. Photo Locarno Festival

Giona Nazzaro, the new artistic director, when presenting the program for this 75th edition -which includes 226 films from more than a hundred countries, including 105 world premieres-, underlined that Locarno remains faithful to its vocation of freedom and which aims to offer a space to discover and discuss cinema in all its forms, “with an ever-steady gaze towards the future”.

And looking to the future for a festival that, since its creation in 1946, has been committed to the centrality of independent auteur cinema, implies capturing, in particular, the attention of the young public. It is a great challenge to focus on young people who today have a completely different relationship with images, he admits, for his part, Marco Solari, who has chaired the festival since 2000.

Digitization and artificial intelligence are paving the way for unimaginable developments, also in the world of cinema and festivals. “The task is no longer just to entertain, but also to educate,” Solari explained to the press at the beginning of July, and called for helping future generations to recognize the beautiful, the just, the profound, and to believe in the values ​​in which which is based, or should be based, all human coexistence.

Poster for the 75th edition of the Locarno Film Festival

Tsunami of images

The big square (Plaza Grande), in the heart of Locarno, just 50 kilometers from the border with Italy and 120 from Milan, continues to be the main letter of introduction of the Locarno Film Festival.

With 8,000 chairs arranged on the central pedestrian cobblestone –some of which are collected at midnight after the performance–, the Square it is one of the largest open-air “rooms” in Europe and even in the world. It can, in its own style and particularity, compete on equal terms with the Kinepolis in Madrid, considered the largest complex on the planet, with space for 9,200 spectators, but distributed in 25 rooms.

The giant screen Square, 364 square meters (26 ms by 14 ms), it allows viewers to sit more than 100 meters away without losing sound or image quality. Measures and dimensions that, together with the charm of the old buildings that surround the place, particularly illuminated during the festival, and with the almost Mediterranean summer climate of Italian Switzerland in August, make the Big square in a unique cinema setting under the stars.

Seventeen films from eleven countries will be screened there, including ten world premieres. The selection opens on August 3 with Bullet trainby American director David Leitch and with the participation of Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock. Swiss-German co-production AAll about Martin Suter. except the truth (All about Martin Suter. beyond the truth), world premiere of André Schäfer, will close the 75th. edition on the second Saturday of August.

The Latin American label will, on this occasion, not be very present at the big square. just the movie my neighbor adolf (My neighbor Adolf), by Leon Prudovsky, co-produced by Israel, Colombia and Poland, provides a South American setting and theme.

In the Official Competition, of the 17 films competing for the Golden Leopard, Locarn’s main award, two world premieres have Latin American presence: I have electric dreamsof Valentina Maurel, Belgian-French-Costa Rican, and sermon to the fish, Hilal Baydarov, with the participation of Mexico, Azerbaijan, Switzerland and Turkey.

Pala Cinema, one of the various theaters that in Locarno and the surrounding region ensure the screenings of the Locarno Film Festival

Open doors for Latin American cinema

However, Locarno 2022, which takes place not only in the Piazza Grande but also in a dozen rooms scattered throughout the city – and which work from early morning to midnight during the ten days -, does not turns its back on Latin American cinema. Since the origins of the festival, it has always been a central pole of attraction for the Swiss public.

The session Open doors (Open doors), the result of the festival’s collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development for two decades, focuses this year on film production from 22 Latin American countries, focusing mainly on Central America and the Caribbean.

It constitutes the beginning of a three-year program, which also anticipates for 2023 and 2024 a European window of particular repercussion for young filmmakers and directors of the Latin American continent.

Eight feature films and ten short films, reflections of the thriving independent cinema of this region, make up the official program. The festival public, as well as hundreds of production companies and distributors, will be able to access films that normally fall outside the traditional commercial circuits.

Between them, 90 minutesHonduran director Aeden O’Conner Agurcia; ayiti my lovea Haitian-American co-production by Guetty Felin; the zero optionBrazilian-Cuban-Colombian co-production by Marcel Beltrán, and medeaby the young Costa Rican filmmaker Alexandra Latishev Salazar.

Complete the Open Doors program, the American-Jamaican film right near the beach the Allen Gibrey; Pink, Guatemalan director Andrés Rodríguez; A movie about couplesDominican production by Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, and all the fish, by the thriving Salvadoran director Brenda Vanegas.

After its world premiere on August 8, Vanegas will animate a round table with guest directors on the theme of women’s narratives and realities through Central American and Caribbean cinema.

A unique feature of the Locarno Festival: at the end of each screening of the international competition, as well as of some of the other sessions, the respective directors, producers and actors can debate extensively with the public — without restriction or credentials. any– in a particularly democratic space especially dedicated to this type of exchange.

Piazza Grande © Locarno Film Festival, Luca Dieguez

Cinema as a declaration of solidarity

Reflecting on content and anticipating the challenges of cinema in this era is part of the artistic passion of Giona Nazzaro, the director of the Locarnesa show, who has been linked to it for years. Nazzaro has also been responsible for the Critics’ Week at the Venice Festival, Italy, and a member of the Selection Commission for the Rotterdam Festival, the Netherlands.

“The selection of films that we have made after screening and evaluating more than 3,000 titles (of all formats and durations) is intended to be a sign of a time and of a cinema in motion,” he says. A historical time that moves in several directions at the same time and a cinema that questions the world and how to live responsibly, sustainably. “The image is a testimony and a declaration of solidarity. Even when it itches and burns”, emphasizes Nazzaro.

And the director concludes: “Learning tirelessly to look together means resuming dialogue to rediscover the meaning of our communities. It constitutes the fundamental lesson of cinema according to Rossellini”.

The bet is doubled and, in this case, it is affirmed without negotiating, Nazzaro maintains: the Locarno Film Festival is a bastion of auteur cinema. From young and emerging cinema. Of the cinema that has not yet arrived. Of the young people who take their first steps. Of the Leopards of Tomorrow (the Golden Leopard is the festival’s highest award), forging the most exciting contemporary cinema in the world.

Locarno opens. Close, geographically, but far, conceptually, from the elitist Cannes or the aristocratic Venice. A festival that, although it flirts with the vedettes of North American cinema and turns to France, Italy and Germany to find an international perfume, continues to believe deeply in independent cinema where the personality of the director prevails. Taking distance from the big commercial studios and allowing filmmakers to express their own artistic personality, without pressure or conditioning. And, above all, in an open cultural environment and with programming without self-censorship. The curtain opens. To dream under the stars…

The Piazza Grande in 1971. Locarno Festival Photo

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