Wind of freedom blows at major Swiss film festival

Abbas Kiarostami and Locarno were like a pair of gloves. He won a bronze award in the 1980s and the festival honoured him with two retrospectives. The acclaimed Iranian director died ten days ago, aged 78. Keystone

Light and airy like the wind: this is the theme of this year’s Locarno Film Festival, a highlight of Switzerland’s cultural summer season. Among the 17 films competing for the Golden Leopard award are two Swiss entries. A third will be shown in an open-air screening on the Piazza Grande.

This content was published on July 13, 2016 - 17:03
Stefania Summermatter and Duc-Quang Nguyen,

Some visitors to the festival, which is now in its 69th year and is taking place from August 3-13, might like a bit more red carpet razzamatazz, but this has never been the organisers’ ambition. Speaking at a media conference on Wednesday, artistic director Carlos Chatrian said Locarno was going back to its roots and to a spirit that “made space for less well-known films and emerging directors”.

Many films presented this year go off the beaten track and investigate the current cultural and social climate of indifference and refusal to cooperate with others. Retrospectives with films from post-war Germany or a series dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky are just two examples. The Chilean director and author will also receive a Leopard of Honour for his output, which ranges from theatre and poetry to comics and music.

The Piazza Grande, the festival’s showcase screen, will welcome back British director Ken Loach with his latest film “I, Daniel Blake”, which won the Golden Palm at Cannes this year. Another highlight will be “Le ciel attendra” (Heaven will wait), by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, about two French teenagers who get involved with Islamic militants.


Seventeen films are in competition for the main award. No fewer than eight are directed by women, including Milagros Mumenthaler, an Argentinian-born Swiss. Her “Abrir puertas y ventanas” (Back to stay) won Locarno’s top award in 2011. Mumenthaler’s new film is set against the backdrop of the military dictatorship in the 1970s.

Michael Koch’s debut film “Marija” is the second Swiss entry this year. It is the story of a young woman from Ukraine who has gone to Germany to work as a cleaning lady.

"Moka" by Swiss director Frédéric Mermoud will be screened on the Piazza Grande.  

The ten-day festival on the shores of Lake Maggiore in southern Switzerland also pays tribute to two recently deceased masters of the big screen: Michael Cimino and Abbas Kiarostami. Locarno will premiere Kiarostami’s final film.

Hollywood stars Roger Corman, Howard Shore and Bill Pullman are also among those to be honoured.

The winners of the Pardo d’Oro award from 1968 to today

The maps shows the countries where the award-winning films were produced: 1969 : Joint winners of the Pardo d’oro. 1970 : Joint winners of the Pardo d’oro. 1971 : Pardo d’oro for best newcomer film. 1982: No award given, but the jury agrees to issue honorary mentions. 1988: Joint winners of the Pardo d’oro.

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