A Multivarious Lineup for Locarno 2019

On Film / The Daily — Jul 17, 2019
Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela (2019)

From crowd-pleasers likely fill all eight thousand seats in the Piazza Grande through new works by festival circuit veterans and debuts from budding talents, the lineup for this year’s Locarno Film Festival promises to offer the widest possible range of moviegoing experiences. Following artistic director Carlo Chatrian’s departure for the Berlinale, Locarno’s seventy-second edition will be the first overseen by Lili Hinstin. “The choices you make for your first festival all tend to become a kind of manifesto,” she writes, adding that she intends to present “an editorial line that is clear and precise but also eclectic, open to all genres, all continents, all forms of representation.”

Piazza Grande

Before Locarno 2019 opens on August 7, the festival will present the new 4K restoration of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, whose thirtieth anniversary is being celebrated practically all summer long. Then, on opening night, there will be a screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s eleven-minute Letter to Freddy Buache (1982) as a tribute to the late Swiss film critic, cofounder of the Swiss Film Archive, former Locarno codirector to whom this year’s edition is dedicated. As noted yesterday, Ginevra Elkann’s debut feature, Magari, a comedy about three kids sent away by their well-to-do mother in Paris to live with their broke father in Italy, will officially open Locarno 2019, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth, starring Atsuko Maeda as a travel reporter in Uzbekistan, will wrap it all up on August 17.

In between, audiences will be drawn to one of Switzerland’s biggest and most famous city squares by such films as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood and Patrick Vollrath’s action thriller 7500, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But they might also be tempted by other highlights in the program:

  • In Halina Reijn’s directorial debut, Instinct, a prison psychologist (Carice van Houten) faces off against a sex offender (Marwan Kenzari).
  • Adoration, starring Fantine Harduin and Thomas Gioria as teens who meet in a psychiatric ward and set out on an adventure together, will complete Fabrice du Welz’s Ardennes trilogy, which began with Calvaire (2004) and Alleluia (2014).
  • On a lighter note, the remarriage comedy Notre Dame is the fifth feature directed by Valérie Donzelli, who also stars alongside Pierre Deladonchamps, Thomas Scimeca, Bouli Lanners, and Virginie Ledoyen.

Among the midnight screenings are two features by Locarno 2019 honorees. John Waters, recipient of this year’s Pardo d’onore Manor, a lifetime achievement nod, will be on hand for a screening of his Hollywood kidnapping comedy Cecil B. Demented (2000), featuring Melanie Griffith, and in a quick cameo, Patty Hearst herself. And Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003) stars Excellence Award winner Song Kang-ho, the accomplished actor who has also worked with Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, Hong Sang-soo, and Lee Chang-dong.

International Competition

Along with producer Ilse Hughan, critic Emiliano Morreale, actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, and filmmaker Angela Schanelec, international competition jury president Catherine Breillat will select the winner of this year’s Golden Leopard from seventeen contenders. Among the most anticipated of these will be Vitalina Varela, Pedro Costa’s first feature since 2014’s Horse Money. This will be the Portuguese filmmaker’s sixth collaboration with Ventura, one of the Cape Verdean immigrant workers featured in Costa’s work since Ossos in 1997. The focus this time is on Ventura’s cousin, Vitalina, who is seen in Horse Money just after her arrival in Lisbon from Cape Verde. Having missed her husband’s funeral by three days, she discovers that the impoverished neighborhood where he had been living, Fontainhas, has been turned into a sprawling shopping center. “Lacking citizenship papers, she knows she is precarious,” writes Emma Fajgenbaum in the current issue of the New Left Review. The new film, she adds, “continues to show the anxieties that surround Fontainhas.”

A few other standouts:

  • A Girl Missing reunites director Koji Fukada with Mariko Tsutsui, one of the stars of Harmonium, which won the Un Certain Regard jury prize in Cannes in 2016. In A Girl Missing, a private nurse fears that her nephew may have kidnapped a young woman from the family she works for.
  • Maya Da-Rin’s The Fever focuses on a middle-aged Amerindian security guard in an industrial town embedded in the Amazonian rainforest. Overcome by the heat and tropical rains, he begins to believe he’s being followed.
  • With Echo, Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson creates a portrait of his country at Christmastime in fifty-six disparate scenes.
  • Maternal, the story of three women at a convent for single teen mothers in Buenos Aires, is the fiction feature debut of documentary filmmaker Maura Delpero.
  • The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis calls Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, winner of two awards at Sundance, “an expressionistic odyssey, both rapturous and melancholic.”

And Ulrich Köhler and Henner Winckler, two filmmakers associated with the Berlin School, have codirected A Voluntary Year, a film for German television focusing on the relationship between a father and his daughter—but it’s nothing like Toni Erdmann, the critically acclaimed comedy Köhler’s partner, Maren Ade, made in 2016. Instead, a young woman about to head to Central America is torn between her father’s desire to see her set out on her own and her love for a young man back home.

Further Programs

More than three hundred films will screen at Locarno this year. The three other competitions—Filmmakers of the Present, Leopards of Tomorrow, and Moving Ahead—will spotlight challenging work by the likes of Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong, Omer Fast, Ben Russell, Jeanne Balibar, Sky Hopinka, Eric Baudelaire, and dozens of first-time filmmakers. Premiering out of competition are new films by Denis Côté and Marie Losier as well as fifteen shorts completed during the festival by students attending a workshop conducted by Béla Tarr. Further short films include new work from Yorgos Lanthimos and José Luis Guerin.

The retrospective Black Light will offer nearly fifty films by a diverse array of directors including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Oscar Micheaux, Samuel Fuller, Shirley Clarke, Julie Dash, and the late John Singleton. There will also be tribute screenings honoring Claire Atherton, the editor who worked closely with Chantal Akerman; Leopard Club Award winner Hilary Swank; and Bruno Ganz, already sorely missed. In short, it’d be difficult to exhaust the Locarno 2019 lineup within a year—never mind eleven days.

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