Locarno repositions itself as a hub for avant-garde filmmakers

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For its 75th edition, the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, long known as a global temple of independent cinema, is looking to the future while repositioning itself as an avant-garde hub for a wider range of films, including including studio and broadcast titles, with large audiences. .

“We believe that entertainment can be both serious and fun: I don’t see an opposite scenario where entertainment is only cheap and seriousness is only extremely intellectual,” says the festival’s artistic director, Giona A. Nazzaro.

For his second edition at the helm of the festival, the Italian critic is leaving his mark on Locarno with a program which, alongside simple auteur films of all genres, increasingly includes comedies and genre films. The eclectic nature of the festival is exemplified by the choice of opener, Sony’s sparkling action-thriller “Bullet Train”, directed by David Leitch, which Aaron Taylor-Johnson will play August 3 in the 8,000 Piazza Grande places, and the closest on August 13, “All about Martin Suter”, directed by André Schäfer and dedicated to Suter, considered the greatest living Swiss author.

“The philosophy is to provide a wide range of movies that are all hugely entertaining, while not avoiding the bigger issues,” Nazzaro adds. He cites films such as “Where the Crawdads Sing” by American director Olivia Newman, which “is basically about how a woman can determine her own destiny”; French director Blandine Lenoir’s ‘Angry Annie’, which recalls the days when abortion was illegal in France and is particularly timely following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States; and German director Kilian Riedhof’s French-language drama “You Will Not Have My Hate,” which deals with the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attack at the Bataclan club in Paris, “but in a finely felt way that is neither political nor ideological. Among other photos, Nazzaro highlights the environmental thriller “Delta” by Italian director Michele Vannucci, the Swiss comedy “Last Dance”, headlining Frenchman François Berléand (“Les Choristes”) and a daring period film titled “Il Pataffio” by Italian Francesco Laghi, adapted from a book by Italian author Luigi Malerba which also served as the basis for the two comedies “Armata Brancaleone” by the great master of Commedia all’Italiana Mario Monicelli.

Meanwhile, on the industry side, Locarno is also expanding its reach in what is expected to be a banner year, now that the restrictions caused by the pandemic have been lifted.

“Locarno is a place of discovery not only for films, but also for talent,” says Markus Duffner, who heads the festival’s industry arm, Locarno Pro. He notes that his many programs, which include an Industry Academy training workshop, Match Me! net work i ng forum, the StepIN think tank and the springboard for the Open Doors project, now focused on small Latin American territories, make Locarno a privileged event for “cinema professionals to spend quality time networking and get to know new players, in addition to doing business. ” In terms of buyers, top US

independent distributors such as A24, Bleeker Street, Film Movement, Kino Lorber, Oscilloscope and Cinetic will be present, alongside many of their European counterparts, including Pyramide, Le Pact, Memento and Wild Bunch in France, Beta Cinema in Germany, TrustNordisk in Denmark and True Colors in Italy. .

Killer Films chief Christine Vachon will hold a masterclass, as will Neon head of distribution Elissa Federoff, who will talk about releasing films in the original language in the United States, and producer Jason Blum, known for directing hit horror franchises such as “Paranormal Activity”. and more recently, Spike Lee’s “Whiplash”, “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman” received Locarno’s Raimondo Rezzonico Award for a producer embodying the independent spirit.

Netflix, Amazon Studios and arthouse streamer Mubi will also make the trip to the Swiss lakeside town.

Duffner, also the founder of cult film VOD platform Spamflix, last year launched Locarno Pro’s Heritage Online, a one-of-a-kind platform that serves as a database and business enabler for vintage cinema. He is also proud that, faithful to the pioneering spirit of the festival, Locarno is hosting a panel on new distribution strategies for vintage films, from theatrical release to sale via NFTs.

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