'Wow', was the reaction of almost all the visitors to the Piazza Grande, where the 65th Locarno International Film Festival put up one of the largest cinema screens in Europe. The festival, hosting up to 8,000 visitors per night on the big square, honored directors Johnnie To from Hong Kong, Leos Carax and Claire Denis from France, and stars Harry Belafonte, Charlotte Rampling and Alain Delon.
The Open Doors section of the festival, which highlights films and filmmakers from countries whose cinema is still developing, focused on Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, showing — with 21 films from the region — a wonderful mix of classics like Brightness (Yeelen) by Souleymane Cisse, Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambety and new films by Moussa Touré (La Pirogue) and Alain Gomis with Today (Aujourd'hui).
The big retrospective was dedicated to Otto Preminger, the famed Austrian Hollywood director of Carmen Jones (with Harry Belafonte), Anatomy of a Murder (with James Stewart) and The Man with the Golden Arm (with Frank Sinatra). What does Preminger mean for us today? As artistic director Olivier Père put it: 'In an age of triumphant auteurism and flamboyant 'stylistics', his films represent the height of classicism, and are built upon an art of balance, a brilliant gift for composition and narration that encompasses individual destinies and History with a capital H, violence and restraint, cold intelligence and emotion, lofty scepticism and humanism.'
Other special sections were the 'Histoire(s) du Cinema' series and the competition 'Cineasti del presente', presided over by Chad's director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, which turned out to be the ideal arena for discovery. The main competition, presided over by Thai director Apichatpong (aka Joe) Weerasethakul, showed a taste for experiment as well, with a high point being Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, a film made on a fishing boat with a dozen little digital cameras that crosses borders between documentary, visual art and anthropology. Other interesting competition entries of this very cinephile-oriented edition of the Locarno International Film Festival were two Vienna-based films, which researched and finely balanced fiction and documentary, life and art: Museum Hours by Jem Cohen, and The Shine of Day (Der Glanz des Tages) by the talented filmmaking couple Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel. (Belinda van de Graaf)
Locarno International Film Festival: www.pardo.ch