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Young guns shooting for Leopards

Switzerland's François Rossier won a special commendation for his film swissinfo.ch

Film-makers from around the world have battled it out on the silver screen to see who will be crowned the "Leopards of Tomorrow" at the Locarno Film Festival.

This content was published on August 11, 2002 - 21:47

Each year, the festival - which wrapped up on Sunday - offers young directors the chance to win two separate cash prizes of SFr5,000 ($4,000) each, plus film stock and equipment worth tens of thousands of francs.

And this year, cinematographers from Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand were competing for the top prizes. Many winners have gone on to make feature films for the international section of the festival.

swissinfo caught up with François Rossier - one of 16 Swiss entrants - whose "Petits Gestes" (Small Gestures) won a special commendation from the judges at this year's festival.

The judges at Locarno described the film as a "rare synthesis of written poetry and image".

The one-minute film, described by critics as "graceful and poetic", features a poem by Jean-Luc Goddard that Rossier found in a film guide he keeps in the bathroom. Shot in French, the film has been reproduced here (see video icon) to give swissinfo visitors a taste of the competition.

Petits Gestes is made up of footage from what was intended to be a much longer study of feminine beauty, from childhood through to the twilight years. Rossier has shot seven hours and still intends to complete the longer film when he can find suitable protagonists.

Film chronology

Born in Vevey, Rossier trained as an actor at the Scuola di Teatro Dimitri in Locarno and decided to start making his own films after several years of visiting the film festival.

He went on to study at the London International Film School, and has since had three of his own films shown at Locarno.

His most successful production to date is "Liquid Assets", his 1993 film school graduation project. The eight-minute black comedy scooped a SFr20,000 prize at Switzerland's Solothurn Film Festival.

With the prize money, he made "Shazka" (1997), a 24-minute fairy tale adapted from a book by Nabokov. The production was poorly received and it took three years before his next film appeared.

"Château de Sable" (Sand Castle), which is just nine minutes long, proved a hit at Locarno and was nominated for the Swiss Film Prize at Solothurn in 2001.

"Liquid Assets" has since been shown in cinemas in Germany and Switzerland, and on television in Europe and the United States. "Château de Sable" has been broadcast on ARTE, the European arts channel.

Jumping ship

Rossier deserted Switzerland, which he describes as "too beautiful and too peaceful", for Berlin during the Nineties.

"I needed to live in a place with a rough edge, to stimulate and inspire my script-writing and film-making," he explains.

He first fell in love with the German capital after travelling there to show Liquid Assets in 1993.

Drawn by the timeless look of the canals and tramways, he decided to shoot Shazka in Berlin as well.

By the time filming was completed, Rossier realized he had more friends and colleagues in Berlin than in Switzerland.

The city had claimed him. Besides which, he says, Berlin offered a much wider choice of professional collaborators and production facilities than his homeland.

by Julie Hunt

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