This year’s Locarno Festival has come to a close, and the jury has given its highest honor, the Golden Leopard, to Singaporean director Yeo Siew Hua, the biggest international film-festival win for the island country since Anthony Chan picked up the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2013 for Ilo Ilo. Yeo’s noir-tinged second feature, A Land Imagined, tracks a police officer’s search for a construction worker who’s gone missing from a land reclamation site.
The jury, presided over by Jia Zhangke and including Sean Baker, Emmanuel Carrère, Tizza Covi, and Isabella Ragonese, was clearly more taken with A Land Imagined than the few critics who’ve written about it so far. Variety’s Jay Weissberg finds that it “privileges style over coherence, indulging in pointless time shifts and giving short shrift to too many characters. Any discussion of the quasi-slave-like situation for most of the country’s external laborers is important, and Yeo adds some good lines about how the city-state is literally built from foreign soil, yet Land will feel overly familiar to those looking for more than well-intentioned musings on the horrendous treatment of guest workers.” And at the Film Stage, Rory O’Connor notes that while Land is “remarkable for its style and ambition . . . it’s also a tale buckling at the knees under all that symbolism and with at least one too many loose ends left dangling.”