Pollack wins top film award

Sydney Pollack was awarded the Leopard of Honour lifetime achievement award

Sydney Pollack, the US filmmaker who directed "Out of Africa" and "Tootsie", has won the Locarno film festival's Golden Leopard award for career achievement.

This content was published on August 4, 2002 - 10:43

The Swiss festival also honoured the actor and director, who started his filmmaking career in the 1960s, by screening his classic 1969 film "They Shoot Horses, Don't They".

Pollack said he felt particularly honoured to win the award because the Locarno festival had a tradition of showing non-commercial films.

Having not seen "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" for more than 20 years, Pollack also admitted feeling nervous about the film.

"I don't know how I'll feel or whether I'll like it," Pollack said before Saturday night's screening.

Almost 40 years of film-making

Born in 1934 and originally trained as an actor, Pollack rose to prominence after being encouraged to direct by Hollywood giant Burt Lancaster. The result was the 1965 film "The Slender Thread", starring Anne Bancroft, Sidney Poitier and Telly Savalas.

His career flourished during the 1970s, with hits such as "Jeremiah Johnson", "The Way We Were", "Three Days of the Condor" and "The Yakuza".

Pollack, who has avoided Hollywood's penchant for blockbuster violence, is known as a subtle director who has nonetheless created some of the industry's biggest hits.

His 1985 adaptation of Karen Blixen's novel Out of Africa earned two Oscars (best film and director) and cemented his long-standing relationship with actor Robert Redford, who has starred in seven of his films. The pair also founded the influential Sundance Film Festival.

In recent years Pollack has achieved success with "The Firm", and has returned to acting in films by Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick.

Art's slow progress

While speaking about his approach to film-making, Pollack said he had little time for the notion that news stories automatically make for good films.

Pollack says that while the September 11 attacks offer a vast source of material, the events are still too fresh to make a good film.

"We have to realise that we have not been successful in our relationships with the majority of the world," Pollack said. "One cannot be rich and powerful and loved at the same time."

Pollack told the festival that there was little to be gained by making a film within such an atmosphere.

"It takes a long time for the emotional, political and social reality of a country to find its way into film," he said.

"If you jump from the headlines into making a film, you make nothing but propaganda. We needed ten years to make a good film about Vietnam."

Locarno in full swing

The Locarno Festival, which runs from August 1 until the 11th, remains Switzerland's premier film festival.

Based around an open-air cinema in the heart of the Ticinese town, the festival started in 1971, and has rapidly grown in status.

swissinfo with agencies

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