Big changes are afoot at the Locarno Festival, where Carlo Chatrian has announced the lineup for the last edition he’ll be overseeing as artistic director. Chatrian will be spending next year at the side of Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick before taking over as artistic director in 2020.
In the past six years under Chatrian’s leadership, Locarno’s profile has risen as a discoverer of fresh and exciting talent. Bi Gan, whose Long Day’s Journey into Night was a critical favorite at Cannes this year, first drew attention when he won the Best Emerging Director award in the Filmmakers of the Present competition in 2015 for Kaili Blues. The Signs of Life section has debuted work by Ben Russell and Ben Rivers, José Luis Guerin, and Fiona Tan, and as for the main competition, winners of the Golden Leopard during Chatrian’s tenure, including Wang Bing, Lav Diaz, and Albert Serra, have seen their already respectable reputations boosted even further.
The overall tone of the seventy-first edition will be more upbeat than usual. Introducing this year’s selections, Chatrian noted that “when the world loses its coherence, only comedy can save us.” Bruno Dumont will not only receive the Pardo d’onore, a lifetime achievement award, he’ll also present Coincoin and the Extra-Humans, the second season of a comedic series that began with L’il Quinquin (2014). This will be the first television series ever in Locarno’s lineup. Even Mariano Llinás’s La Flor, a fourteen-hour feature slated for the competition that Chatrian calls “a tribute to cinema as a factory of stories,” will feel “light, like the wind blowing.”
You can explore the full lineup at Locarno’s site, and the Notebook has put together a handy at-a-glance list of all the titles set to screen from August 1 through 11. Here’s an overview of just a few of the highlights.
Hong Sangsoo, who won the Golden Leopard with Right Now, Wrong Then (2015), continues his remarkably prolific streak with a new film, coming on the heels of the four he’s made in the past year and a half. According to Chatrian, the black-and-white Hotel by the River is a “tale of winter, where an old man splits his time between his children and two young women he met by chance, by the river.”
Alice T., from Romanian director Radu Muntean (The Paper Will Be Blue, One Floor Below), focuses on the strained relationship between a mother and her rebellious adopted daughter. Another mother-daughter relationship is explored in A Family Tour by Chinese independent filmmaker Ying Liang (When Night Falls). Here, the mother journeys to Taiwan to reunite with her daughter, an exiled filmmaker. Familial bonds are stretched to the limit in Swiss filmmaker Thomas Imbach’s Glaubenberg, in which a teenage girl falls hard for her brother.
Only three of the fifteen films lined up for the competition have been directed by women. M, Yolande Zauberman’s first feature in seven years, is a documentary centering on Menahem Lang, a young man returning to Bnei Brak, an Israeli city known as a center of Ultra Orthodox Judaism. It was there that he was raped throughout his childhood, but as Fabien Lemercier notes at Cineuropa, Lang also revisits “the places he loved so much, a rite of passage peppered with incredible encounters and rediscovered rituals . . . A reconciliation of sorts.”
Dominga Sotomayor’s Late to Die Young is a group portrait of three young friends in an isolated community below the Andes on the eve of Chile’s return to democracy. And Çagla Zencirci has co-directed Sibel with Guillaume Giovanetti. Set in a small mountain village near the Black Sea, Sibel is about a young mute woman who begins a new life when she meets a deserter from the Turkish army.
One of the most notable films in competition to have already premiered elsewhere is Diane, the narrative feature debut of New York Film Festival director Kent Jones. The winner of three top awards at Tribeca, Diane stars Mary Kay Place as a mother attending to her cousin, who’s dying of cancer, and her drug-addicted son. For Steve Dollar, dispatching from Tribeca to Filmmaker, Diane was a standout. “What seems like a character study enmeshed in the autumnal Americana of western Massachusetts (though really shot in upstate New York), limned in small, novelistic details, gradually opens up into something metaphysical.”
Piazza Grande and Beyond
Each year, the Piazza Grande becomes an open-air theater for up to 8,000 attendees throughout the festival, and it’s here that Locarno presents its crowd-pleasers and stages its awards ceremonies. Besides Bruno Dumont, this year’s honorees include Ethan Hawke, whose Blaze, based on the life of country musician Blaze Foley, will screen in the Piazza, where he’ll receive the Excellence Award will be presented to Ethan Hawke. David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) will accompany the presentation of the Vision Award to groundbreaking title sequence designer Kyle Cooper, and just today, the festival announced that its Leopard Club Award will be presented to Meg Ryan.
This year’s retrospective will be dedicated to Leo McCarey, whose career spans from silent comedies starring Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd, through heart-wrenching dramas such as Make Way for Tomorrow and screwball comedies like The Awful Truth (both from 1937) to melodrama, exemplified by his late career classic, An Affair to Remember (1957). When the retrospective was announced, Chatrian declared that the time is right “for McCarey’s name to be awarded the status he deserves: we are fully convinced that his art, elegance, and sense of timing will be an inspiration and a stimulus for new generations of viewers and filmmakers.”
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