Locarno 2022 Lineup

Helena Wittmann’s Human Flowers of Flesh (2022)

Long before announcing the lineup for its seventy-fifth edition this morning, the Locarno Film Festival made it clear that it would not take part in a blanket boycott of Russian films. “We stand for freedom of expression and for the cinematographic art in all of its forms,” reads a statement issued earlier this year. “Cinema is a voice for supporting diversity and creativity in all countries.”

Russian filmmakers who have been openly critical of Putin’s war in Ukraine ought to be especially welcome, and Alexander Sokurov, who won the Golden Lion in Venice for Faust (2011), certainly fits the bill. Two weeks ago, he was detained at Russia’s border to Finland, where—at least temporarily—he was denied permission to leave the country. Now his new film, Fairytale, will be among the seventeen features premiering in Locarno’s international competition. Little is known about Fairytale other than that it’s a fantasy set against the backdrop of the Second World War. “This is pure fiction, everything is fiction,” said Sokurov last December. “Such an absolutely new artistic act for me.”

The competition will also feature Human Flowers of Flesh, directed by Helena Wittmann (Drift) and starring Angeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth, The Lobster) as a woman who becomes fascinated with the French Foreign Legion. The cast includes Denis Lavant, who starred in Claire Denis’s Foreign Legion film, Beau travail (1999). Documentarian Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Our Daily Bread, Earth) will bring Matter Out of Place, which tracks the path of garbage to the far corners of the world. And in Valentin Merz’s De noche los gatos son pardos, an eclectic cast and crew are working on a sexy costume drama in a forest when the director disappears. “The boundaries between the film-within-the-film and the narration from a bird’s eye view are intentionally blurred,” says Merz.

Locarno will open on August 3 with the international festival premiere of Bullet Train, an action comedy directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) and starring Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Michael Shannon, and Bad Bunny. Other films slated to screen on the Piazza Grande, where an open-air theater will seat eight thousand people, include Anna Gutto’s Paradise Highway, starring Juliette Binoche as a truck driver, and Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s Une femme de notre temps, with Sophie Marceau playing a police superintendent who discovers that her husband is leading a double life. Among the honorees receiving special achievement awards before this year’s edition wraps on August 13 are Laurie Anderson, Costa-Gavras, and Kelly Reichardt.

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