Locarno Leopard flexes its claws

Article published on Aug. 7, 2008
community published
Article published on Aug. 7, 2008
Inaugurated in 1946 by the fonts of the Grand Hotel gardens, which remain in the background, the Locarno International Film Festival today opens its 61st edition on the famous Piazza Grande, the huge open-air movie theatre that has fuelled the dreams and apprehensions of many filmmakers over the years.
Unveiling one’s film on this square – which can host up to 8,000 viewers, and suddenly be left empty when the rain spoils the party – is an experience worth the trepidation.

The first taste of the 2008 selection – which puts the spotlight on European productions – is offered by UK director Julian Jarrold, who will present the European premiere of Brideshead Revisited. The film – which follows the director’s previous work, Becoming Jane – is adapted from Evelyn Waugh’s eponymous novel and stars Emma Thompson.

On August 16, Back Soon – the hilarious, marijuana-spiced comedy by Franco-Finnish director Solveig Anspach – will have the honour of closing the festival.

In the meantime, the Piazza Grande will screen 16 other features, either previously released or unreleased. Titles include Red Wood Pigeon (1989), one of the gems of the Nanni Moretti retrospective. The outstanding Italian director, actor and producer also has a book and exhibition dedicated to him at Locarno.

Other films include Later by Amos Gitai (who will be awarded an Honorary Leopard); and Swiss director Denis Ragablia’s comedy Marcello, Marcello!. The latter title is the highlight of the Swiss Cinema Day (August 12), which this year gives pride of place to actors.

At the festival’s opening evening, artistic director Frédéric Maire will welcome his prestigious guests, starting with the members of the jury for the International Competition. These include actress Rachida Brakni (France), actor Liron Levo (Israel), producer Bertha Navarro (Mexico), as well as directors Masahiro Kobayashi (Japan), Dani Levy (Switzerland), Goran Paskaljevic (Serbia) and Paolo Sorrentino (Italy). Moreover, three other juries will judge contenders in the following sections: Filmmakers of the Present Competition (five jury members), Leopard for Debut Film Competition (three members) and Leopards of Tomorrow Competition (five members).

The question of who will replace Maire – for whom this is his third and penultimate festival edition – will no doubt occupy the 190,000 viewers, 3,200 professionals and 1000 journalists expected to attend the event. Having taken up the position in 2005, he will step down after the 2009 edition to take over the helm of the Swiss Cinémathèque. This rather premature departure has angered the Tessin press, but Maire (46) prefers to seize the opportunity to realise his cherished dream: following in the footsteps of Freddy Buache and Hervé Dumont to take the reins of the Swiss institution. Françoise Deriaz