Locarno Film Festival 2015 more than a movie showcase

Italian event's huge programme spans a powerful arc between film history and novelties

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 August, 2015, 12:07am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 August, 2015, 12:07am

"I like to think of Locarno Film Festival as a home for cinema," says artistic director Carlo Chatrian when we met at the 68th edition of the festival, which ran earlier this month.

With its huge programme (12 sections, 246 films) traditionally spanning a powerful arc between film history and novelties, Locarno definitely intends to offer more than just a simple showcase for films, aiming to create a space for discussion, exchange and inspiration. "Festivals are also meant for making connections. In this sense, Locarno is like a house where guests are invited, meet each other and create a good atmosphere," Chatrian adds.

Judging by the public's response in Piazza Grande - an open-air venue hosting up to 8,000 people - he may be right. Directors such as Michael Cimino (US), Marco Bellocchio (Italy) and Marlen Khutsiev (Russia), along with actors such as Edward Norton, Andy Garcia (US) and Bulle Ogier (France), took the stage night after night, sparking the enthusiasm of the public. Eighteen debut features highlighted Locarno's objective to nurture new, promising talents.

Three particularly striking entries from the Cineasti del presente section revolve around a seemingly common subject, exploring emotions and reactions among different generations of a family while confronted with the mystery of life and death. Their cinematic approach, however, is diverse.

Kaili Blues by young Chinese writer-director Bi Gan was one of the most surprising discoveries this year. In his poetic, dreamlike, musical suite underscored by the tunes of Lim Giong, Bi challenges notions of time and space, building up a complex, mesmerising and profoundly touching tale about family bonds and love, lost opportunities and new hopes, life and death.

The central part of the film, shot in a single breathtaking 41-minute take, has already earned cult status among festival goers. "Through this take I want to blow the boundaries between being and nothingness. Some people may find it strange, but others may detect a sense of magic realism in it," says Bi of the sequence.

For his stylistic innovation, in terms of narrative and imagery, Kaili Blues was awarded the prize for best emerging director and earned a special mention from the first feature film jury.

Using a more conventional cinematic language, Thithi by Indian filmmaker Raam Reddy takes us to a small village in the state of Karnataka in southern India. Shot on location with a cast of non-professional actors, the film captivates through the strength and fluidity of its narrative while setting the lively scene of an entire family - no fewer than four generations - caught between ancestral traditions and personal desires, duty and dreams.

Thithi's lightness and grace, convincingly blending comedic elements with a deeper moral message, seduced the Cineasti del presente and the first feature jury, winning both of the section's main prizes.

In Siembra, Colombian directors Ángela Osorio Rojas and Santiago Lozano Álvarez draw a unique portrait of a man in a suburban ghetto in Cali, fighting to come to terms with the sudden loss of his only son.

Shot in black and white and soundtracked by a wide variety of local musicians, Siembra has an almost anthropological feel, in its painstakingly authentic depiction of the Afro-Colombian community and its rituals.

With its close focus on the face and body of its distinctive protagonist, the film achieves a rare emotional intensity.

The sudden rain during the closing ceremony couldn't dampen the mood, as the festival ended with the announcement of the Golden Leopard winner: Right Now, Wrong Then, by South Korean master Hong Sang-soo. His leading actor, Jung Jae-young, also took the best actor prize.

This film, about a director who undergoes life-changing experiences after he arrives a day early by mistake for a screening and discussion, is one of the most refined, sensitive and essential works of Hong's career.