“This prize changes a lot,” says Julia Murat, who won the Golden Leopard in Locarno this weekend for Rule 34. The Brazilian filmmaker scored an honorable mention in San Sebastián for Found Memories (2011) and then won the FIPRESCI Prize in Berlin for Pendular (2017), but the Golden Leopard—only the second awarded to a Brazilian film; Glauber Rocha’s Entranced Earth (1967) was the first—is a step up.
In Rule 34, Sol Miranda plays Simone, a young law student in Rio de Janeiro who advocates for women’s rights by day and finances her studies at night by performing in front of a live sex cam. “She is a proud feminist in a country which suffers from, we are informed, the world’s fifth-largest rate of femicide,” writes Neil Young in Screen. “Simone is a Black woman fiercely conscious and critical of the effects of long-standing patriarchal structures. ‘You can hold an exhibition of me tied up to reiterate all the historical images that are attached to my body,’ she jokingly informs her BSDM-savvy BFF Nat (Isabella Mariotto).”
Rule 34 “wasn’t among the buzzier entries in this year’s competition,” writes Guy Lodge at Variety, “but its combination of complex sexual politics and frank, audience-implicating games of spectatorship evidently won over a jury that was never likely to take the safe route.” That jury—presided over by producer Michel Merkt (Elle,Bacurau) and including filmmakers Prano Bailey-Bond (Censor), Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake), and Laura Samani (Small Body) as well as producer William Horberg (The Queen’s Gambit)—gave three of its five awards to I Have Electric Dreams. Costa Rican filmmaker Valentina Maurel won Best Director for her debut feature in which sixteen-year-old Eva, the daughter of recently divorced parents, aims to leave her mother’s home and live with her unstable father, Palomo.
Daniela Marín Navarro, who won the award for Best Actress, “lends her passion, her piercing gaze, and her naturalness to Eva, portraying a stubborn and disarming heroine,” writes Aurore Engelen at Cineuropa. Best Actor-winner Reinaldo Amien Gutiérrez “conveys the ambiguity of Palomo to perfection, a father who’s as loving as he is violent, lost in his ideals and (sometimes) saved by his art. Valentina Maurel often depicts them in movement, in search of attachments, speeding across a version of San José which we don’t often see in film, a portrayal happily free from exoticism.”
A Special Jury Award went to The Adventures of Gigi the Law, a portrait of a cop in a quiet town in northeastern Italy from Alessandro Comodin (Summer of Giacomo,Happy Times Will Come Soon). “What kicks off as a crime procedural swells into a kind of fairytale,” writes Leonardo Goi at the Film Stage, “and an anonymous stretch of countryside turns into a microcosm where desire and dread, fear and awe leak into one another. Gigi the Law brims with wide-eyed wonder, the same that’s frozen on its protagonist’s face. At its most lyrical, it finds beauty within the tedium of small-town life; it’s this receptivity to poetry, this susceptibility to the epic banal, that turns Gigi the Law into a cumulatively poignant oddity.”
Filmmakers of the Present
Slovakian director Tereza Nvotová’s Nightsiren won Best Film in the Filmmakers of the Present program of first and second features. Two women, one returning to her native mountain village and the other recently settled there, find themselves accused of witchcraft in what Filmuforia’s Meredith Taylor calls “a passionate and enigmatic horror film unfolding in seven chapters, supported by an impressive cast and the oppressive camerawork by Federico Cesca.”
Croatian filmmaker Juraj Lerotić won the Best Emerging Director and First Feature awards for Safe Place. Lerotić himself plays Bruno, a young man who saves the life of his suicidal brother, Damir, played by Goran Marković, who won Best Actor. With the help of his mother (Snježana Sinovičić Šiškov), Bruno struggles to protect Damir “not just from himself,” writes Marko Stojiljković at Cineuropa, “but also from the unsympathetic system consisting of rude and suspicious members of the police and the robotic, sometimes even arrogant medical personnel.”
How Is Katia?, the fictional feature debut from Ukrainian director Christina Tynkevych, won a Special Jury Prize and the Best Actress award for Anastasia Karpenko, who plays a paramedic who loses her eleven-year-old daughter to a reckless driver with connections in all the right places. “In addition to being a film about corruption,” writes Nataliia Serebriakova at Cineuropa, “How is Katia? is also a tender declaration of a mother’s love for her child, as well as an attempt to understand whether release is possible after a conditional revenge.”
Another film set in Ukraine, The Hamlet Syndrome, directed by Polish filmmakers Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski, won the Grand Prix in the independent Critics’ Week program. Shot in the summer of 2021, half a year before Putin’s full-scale invasion, the documentary focuses on a tight company of actors working on a production of Hamlet that incorporates their experiences of war. “When we were filming, the conflict was limited to the Donbas area and people could choose whether they wanted to participate in it or not,” Rosołowski tells Cineuropa’s Ola Salwa. “We wanted to show through five different protagonists how big of a wreckage war will leave in the heads of forty million Ukrainians. Even if the war ends tomorrow.”
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.