Throwback Thursday: Attending The Locarno Film Festival – 70th Edition, August 2017

Invitation to Locarno Film Festival’s Opening Night

The first week of August in 2017 I had the pleasure to live one of the greatest weeks of my life. I was living in Lugano during that time, so I was eager to attend the 70th edition of Locarno Film Festival.

Locarno Film Festival is held annually in Locarno, Switzerland, and it is the most important Swiss film festival. Like the main film festivals (i.e. Cannes, Venice, Toronto…), it screens movies in different sections, both competitive and non-competitive; this includes documentaries, shorts, retrospective programs and avant-garde films. The festival’s main partners are Swisscom, laMobiliare, UBS and Manor, while the municipalities of Ascona and Locarno are the destination partner. The top prize of the festival is the Golden Leopard, which is awarded to the best film in the International Competition, along with other prizes like the Prix du Public (Audience Award) and the Leopard of Honor (Career Achievement). In addition, it awards numerous minor prizes and it also awards the Green Pardo WWF (in collaboration with WWF), praising the movie which best reflects the environmental theme in any of the competition sections. For this edition, the Artistic Director was Carlo Chatrian, who maintained his role until the following year. The President of the Jury was Olivier Assayas, director of masterpieces like Personal Shopper and Sils Maria.

Olivier Assayas, President of the Jury at Locarno Film Festival 70

I got to attend the festival with an accreditation due to the fact that I was working in collaboration with a friend journalist, so I was very happy to watch as many films as possible. I was there almost everyday and traveling from Lugano is about 45 minutes by car; I was thankful for that because hotels are so expensive in Locarno during the Festival week.

Attending the 70th Locarno Film Festival

There were a lot of highlights for me during that week: probably the best one was watching the competitive movies in the open-air location of Piazza Grande, which can host up to 8000 spectators. The movies in the Piazza Grande were screened at 9.30 pm, so there was a magical atmosphere and the feeling of sharing the movie-watching experience with so many people.

Of the Piazza Grande movies, I saw “Demain et tous les autres jours”(France), about a child living with her mother after her parents’ divorcing. “Amori che non sanno stare al mondo”(Italy), described as “a sentimental comedy that tells of a love story not quite fit to survive in the world” and “Gotthard – One Life, One Soul”, about one of the most internationally famous Swiss rock bands ever.

I also attended the screenings of “Velvet Goldmine” and “Wonderstruck” for the section Histoire(s) du Cinéma: Pardo d’Onore Manor Todd Haynes; I got to take part in the director’s Q & A, too. What a wonderful experience to see these two movies on the big screen!

Director Todd Haynes with Locarno Film Festival’s Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian

Watching “Las Cinéphilas”by director Marìa Alvarez, part of the Semaine de la Critique section, was such an insightful moment and I found this documentary to be so brilliantly executed. It is about a group of retired women from Spain, Argentina and Uruguay who go to the movies every day. They see films as a “safe and recurrent event in the days that go by”. The cinema is a place “where they can ease their loneliness and forget the passage of time.”

In the Concorso Internazionale section I attended the screening of Gemini, a movie which deals with the complex relationship between a Hollywood star and her personal assistant, touching the themes of celebrity and friendship in that particular environment.

The most emotional moment for me was probably seeing Academy-Award winning actor Adrien Brody, who was attending the festival as winner of the Leopard Club Award; I saw the award ceremony in the Piazza Grande, where I got to take some pictures of him, and my mom even shook hands with him at the stage entrance! Taking part in his Q&A was a great experience as well (even though a little bit too crowded, for obvious reasons!).

Adrien Brody on the stage with Carlo Chatrian and Giada Marsadri (presenter)
Adrien Brody holding the Leopard Club Award

Other movie screenings worth mentioning are Andrea Magnani’s Easy, a co-production between Italy and Ukraine (about a man who is lonely and depressed because he gained a lot of weight and had to interrupt his career as a go-kart driver. He receives a simple job offer from his successful brother: he has to take a coffin from Italy to a small Ukrainian village. The movie recounts his journey to an unknown land with its complications, but also the way for a man to get out of his house and be on the road again. It is told in a brilliant way and received a lot of praise both from the critics and the audience), in the Concorso Cineasti del Presente section, and Paolo Virzi’s La Pazza Gioia, in the Histoire(s) du Cinéma: Premio Cinema Ticino Esmé Sciaroni. This drama is about two women patients at Villa Biondi, a therapeutic institution in Italy, about their becoming friends and eventually taking an opportunity to flee. Co-produced along with France, it is a story filled with hilarious moments (the two main actresses are magnificent in their roles) but also enriched with deeply moving scenes; I got to see the movie with my father and he was in tears by the end of the film!

Me and my mother outside the Kursaal Theatre in Locarno. Credits: Gabriele Putzu @ TiPress

I have so many great, vivid memories from those days; taking the bus to attend the screenings around the town of Locarno, seeing its magical illumination at night, along with an artistic installation which creates the word “Locarno”, sponsored by UBS bank. The nights in the Piazza Grande and all the seats lined up during the day, the yellow color sparkles under the summer sunshine. Sitting in the patio of the Sopracenerina building, reading movie reviews on the official Festival magazine (the 2017 edition of the Festival awarded the Golden Leopard to the Chinese movie Mrs. Fang, which I still have yet to see), all the movie posters on the walls, plus the ones with the Leopard, symbol of the movie festival… and the summer heat, given that it was an especially hot month of August in Switzerland. I remember we had almost 35 degrees celsius, as I was running around during a couple of afternoons to catch some movie screenings. One of my favorite movies titled Metropolitan won the Silver Pardo at Locarno Film Festival in 1991 and I remember buying the official poster after attending the 2017 festival (I now have it framed in my living room, but I will talk about it when I review Whit Stillman’s movies).

Locarno Festival seats in the Piazza Grande
Artistic installation sponsored by UBS

In conclusion, the 70th Locarno Film Festival was a wonderful experience, enriched by the lovely surroundings; the towns of Locarno and Ascona are located on the shores of Lake Maggiore in the Canton Ticino (the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland) and they are definitely worth a visit, as there are many castles from the Early Middle Ages, beautiful Swiss churches and Casa Rusca, the Pinacoteca Comunale, where I saw an exhibition by Robert Indiana.

Whether you will be able to attend the festival or not, I highly suggest visiting Locarno and Canton Ticino any time of the year, as Switzerland has so many different options for travelers in search of art, history and days in nature.

Movie posters in the background
In the Press Room
“It’s good to be here, it feels like home”
70th Locarno Film Festival – Inauguration Day
Locarno images on a building’s façade in the Piazza Grande
Lunch at Movie Restaurant & Lounge, Palacinema Locarno
Attending the Robert Indiana Exhibition at Pinacoteca Casa Rusca in Locarno

Additional notes:

Both dresses by Nadine Milano, cross-body bag by Guess and Marc by Marc Jacobs sunglasses.

Thank you to for providing further information about the Festival.

Thank you to my parents for attending a couple of movie screenings with me during Locarno Film Festival, it was amazing to share this experience with you!

All pictures are my own.


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