Informative plattform of International Federation of Film Societies- Féderation Internationalle des Ciné-clubs- Federación Internacional de Cine Clubes
For someone like me who has never before attended any of the ‘A list’ film festivals, having his personal premiere in Locarno as a member of the jury of the FICC/IFFS, combined both enthusiasm and a high grade of responsibility and respect after knowing that I’d share this task with two truly cinema professionals: Tea Gabidzashvili who works in the Georgian National film centre and Sara Cereghetti who manages FILMAR, the Latin-American Festival of Cinema of Geneva. The Swiss festival is, with any doubt, the most important and relevant of all that awards our Don Quijote Prize, and it has been a great privilege to be part of it from opening until closing ceremony. I consider very positive the fact that this prize is awarded valuing the same nineteen films of the official sections of the festival and not from a parallel section. It is a great pleasure to choose among the selected for the Leopardo d’Oro and has the added value of a slight curiosity at the end to see if our opinion, tastes and final decision will be similar or completely different of the one of the official jury.
Let me introduce you some of the most remarkable films seen during my stay there.
“PARADISE”, Sina Ataeian Dena’s first film, is a new chapter in the endless list of highly talented Iranian filmmakers. This work shows the constant bureaucratic obstacles and the difficult situation that suffer women in this country. “CHANT D’HIVER” was the happy return of veteran Georgian filmmaker Otar Iosseliani. He brought a new acid comedy, with his habitual surrealistic humour, so close to the one of Jacques Tati. This new film, five years after his last one, “CHANTRAPAS”, confirms that Iosseliani is in a perfect shape. Another veteran, almost forgotten after fifteen years of absence behind the cameras, who irrupted strongly in Locarno was Andrzej Zulawski, who won the best director prize with “COSMOS” which was, personally, not one of my preferred films because of an excess of pretentious and intellectual dialogues. “SCHNEIDER vs. BAX” and “THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS” are two formally and aesthetically antagonistic films, and show the exceptional eclecticism of the Swiss festival. The first one is a conventional thriller, and the second, a sample of how the risky and experimental cinema in Locarno is valued and promoted lately. A clear example of that is the two last edition winners: “The story of my death” (2013), and “From what is before” (2014), this last one, winner not only of the Leopardo d’Oro but also awarded with our Don Quijote prize.
“BELLA E PERDUTA”, of the Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello, was possibly one of the films that personally with more expectative awaited. His previous “LA BOCCA DEL LUPO”, maybe for its unexpected and rare beauty, I found it one of the most beautiful love stories filmed in the recent years. However, this new film, not exempt of a tender bucolic beauty, was a bit disappointing to me, but in general was one of the most acclaimed for both public and critics although left Locarno empty-handed.
Also very expected was the last film of the prolific south Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo, “RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN” was finally the winner of the Leopardo d’Oro and was also one of the preferred of our jury, but we finally decided to give our Don Quijote prize and a special mention to two other films.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but at least five of the films of the official section, touched the sometimes difficult and traumatic, and some other times more grateful paternal-filial relationship: “NO HOME MOVIE” is a documentary film of the Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, which pretends to be a kind of tribute to her mother showing her daily life at home and the contact between both mother and daughter during her lasts years of life, through their communications via Skype. A promising proposal but sadly, one of the greatest deceptions of the festival. “O FUTEBOL” shows, much more successfully, the trip of the spanish-brazilian filmmaker Sergio Oksman to his original country, to see his father during the celebration of the football World Cup. Not a single play, not a goal and not even a moment inside any stadium, Oksman is much more interested in the empty streets from the cockpit of a car unskillfully driven by his progenitor, and in the day by day of the cities and the parallel life during this event which seemed to stop every sign of life in the country. Other films that treated this paternal-filial relationships were the French “SUITE ARMORICAINE” and, precisely, the film awarded by our jury with our Don Quijote prize as well as a second which we agreed unanimously that had to be awarded with a special mention, for its outstanding actor direction and acting work: this performative tour de force was in the American independent film “JAMES WHITE”, Josh Mond’s opera prima, more known as a producer of outstanding films like “Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene” or “After school”. Christopher Abbott (the son) and specially Cynthia Nixon (the mother) offered, according to our opinion, the most strong, intense and moving performances of the whole festival. And finally, our Don Quijote prize, which we unanimously agreed to award it to the Israelian filmmaker Avishai Sivan for “TIKKUN”, brilliant formally, with reminiscences of Buñuel, Dreyer and Haneke, and with a mise en scène in an aesthetic black&white full of shades, but also very interesting and impressive in its approach to the oppressive, claustrophobic and repressed world of a young ultraorthodox religious scholar. An accidental and casual near death fact will make him doubt on his purpose and faith. This film was awarded also with the Special prize of the jury, as well as a special mention for its outstanding cinematography.
I will go on with half a dozen authentic festival gems, they became some of the best moments and experiences of my whole stay in Locarno.
The biggest expectative was for the première of the Jose Luis Guerin’s new film “LA ACADEMIA DE LAS MUSAS”, one of the few Catalan presences in the festival, together with the finally awarded documentary “Dead slow ahead” directed by Mauro Herce which screening I unfortunately missed. The work of art of Guerin is a delicious essay about love, beauty, poetry, inspiration, jealousy and seduction through the words which was rewarded with one of the warmest reaction and applauses of the audience in the whole festival. Again, two excellent documentary films : “L’INFINITA FABBRICA DEL DUOMO”, in which we are guided only through images, to the endless and pharaonic building of the Milan Cathedral, generation after generation. This film reminds me somehow of the outstanding “La Ville Louvre” by French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert. Another sensational and highly satisfying work seen in Locarno came also from Italy: “I SOGNI DEL LACO SALATO”, directed by Andrea Segre, sociologist as well as filmmaker. A documentary that compares the power of Italy in the 60’s with the actual situation of Kazakhstan, his strong oil industry and all the contrasts between the capital, Astana, and the rest of this vast country.
In the same afternoon, and in a row, I casually saw two films closely attached to the theatre, but with very different results. “OLMO & THE SEAGULL” shows a French theater company which is invited to perform Chekhov’s play in New York, as a prelude of worldwide tour. The actress who plays the role of Arkadina is pregnant since few days ago and has to face the difficult disjunctive of choosing between motherhood and work, in one of her best personal moments, in both life aspects. The other one, in my opinion, was one of the biggest ‘fiascos’ of the whole festival. Former French actor and now also filmmaker Vincent Macaigne, together with the actors of the Comédie Française completely failed on his attempt to approach as a “DOM JUAN” of Molière adapted nowadays. I a great fan of theater and modern plays with classics texts are one of my preferred ones. Thomas Ostermeier and also Calixto Bieito at the opera are two clear examples of success and general approval for both critic and public. But this ‘Dom Juan’ is shameful, pathetic and in a constant search of easy and stupid provocation. The worst film I’ve seen in the whole festival.
My last mention will we for one of the most singular works seen, and would probably be the one of the mostly remembered between all of my experience in the Locarno Festival. An endless queue of people who waited for entering to the next film I wanted to attend, caused the umpteenth change of plans in my personal agenda and, again, it was a winner because it was years that I didn’t leave the cinema so euphoric and with a grade of empathy so big with both, director and responsible of the project. “IMAGINE WAKING UP TOMORROW AND ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED” starts with an evident unimaginable premise but makes us think about the fact of how badly turned our way of enjoying, consuming and listening to music but also, and specially, over the fact of listening, in general. More than a screening, an unexpected experience together with rest of the audience.. I won’t explain further to avoid spoilers, in case you can see it in the near future.
I would thank the Locarno Film Festival crew for their sympathy with a special thanks to Pia Ferrari, who was always predisposed and ready to help. I can’t avoid mentioning a not so positive fact: the excessive zeal with some trivial questions and the lack of it for others, in my humble opinion, much more important. The day of the opening in Piazza Grande, I was deprived of my photo camera by a member of the organisation and I was forced to leave it unattended in a kind of wardrobe. My surprise was that, once in the Piazza, everyone was taking photos with a new gadget called mobile telephone, which seems to be not so “dangerous” to the organisation. I consider much more relevant a fact that was constantly repeated in all the screenings of the festival: in any moment, no matter if it was one, fifteen or thirty minutes after the beginning of a screening, the public is allowed to access the sales, accompanied with someone of the staff to accommodate them. I found this fact an absolute lack of respect, not only for the rest of the audience who arrived punctually and are disturbed for someone who arrive late, but also for the filmmakers. In other festivals, the access once the screening starts is absolutely forbidden, and I consider this would be mandatory everywhere.
My endless gratitude to the FCC and to the FICC/IFFS for having chosen me for this unbelievable experience, and I won’t say unique or unrepeatable, because I know, for sure, that Locarno and myself would join again someday in the near future.
Xavier Cairó – Federació Catalana de Cineclubs