62nd Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland, August 5-15, 2009)
by Mohammad Haghighat
1. The mayor is gone; the father is coming!
Replacing Frédéric Maire, the former director of Locarno Film Festival, by Olivier Père has been was an interesting subject for French and Swiss film circles in recent months. Some newspapers were playing with their names which both rhyme with each other: “maire” means "mayor" in French and “père” means father. Another interesting point is that, pronunciations of "maire" and "mère" (mother) are identical. So the humorous journalists wrote:" The mother is gone; the father is coming!" Mr. Frédéric Maire who was director of Locarno Film Festival for the last time this year, has managed to give credit to the festival. Before him, under Mrs. Irene Biniardi's direction, the Locarno Film Festival had some weaknesses and had been criticized a lot. Frédéric Maire who had worked in different sections of the Festival for years and in fact, his taste is similar to Marco Miller, the actual director of Venice Film Festival, has succeeded to offer more interesting artistic and creative cinema. But, as the Locarno Film Festival is held after Cannes Film Festival (in May) and before Venice Film Festival (in September), it is literally stuck between them and practically cannot program too many films by famous film directors. That's why it tries to discover talents that have not the opportunity to participate in those Festivals. Maire has been appointed director of Swiss Cinémathèque and soon begins his work there. He shows his usual interest in the Iranian cinema and says that he would like to focus on the Iranian cinema in an appropriate occasion. I tell him that I have some good ideas that I'll share with him soon.
Everyone gathers in the Festival's courtyard every day. It's a place for fortuitous encounters. In its different pavilions, the staff gives service to guests. It is where one could see famous personalities and talk with them. Every one walks through this place a few times a day and it is where I meet and talk with Mr. Père. He is the former director of Cannes Film Festival's Quinzaine des Realisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight) and he is now pleased with his new job. He also shows interest in making some changes in Festival's program. During a casual conversation, I suggested that too many films and sections at Locarno Film Festival is confusing; it would be preferable to choose less films with good quality rather than presenting 320 short and feature films in too many sections. The night before that conversation, I had a talk with Festival's director. He told me that this year, they had watched 2,000 films (which is a very difficult task), but “for being able to find good films, it is necessary to watch these films attentively with my colleagues.” The new director has begun his planning and he's going to begin his voyages to prepare the plans for the next year's Festival. He promised us to have a long conversation in October. From now on, many journalists and professionals are impatient to know about the changes and new policy of Locarno Film Festival in 2010.
2. Who Wins Swiss Money?
There is a lot of money in Switzerland, but it is not strewn on the streets. People from all over the world put their money in Swiss banks and Locarno Film Festival is sponsored by these banks. They spend a lot of money for organizing this Festival which one of its advantages is cash prizes that are dispensed to winners in addition to diplomas, statues and so on: the Festival’s Grand Prix, the Golden Leopard along with 90,000 Swiss Francs. There are also 30,000-franc cash prizes in various sections: Special Jury prize, the best director, the Filmmakers of the Present and the Best Debut Feature. Also, 10,000 francs is given to the best short film. I mean, there's a lot of money and prizes. Even the Young Jury section awards two prizes: their best film wins 6,000 francs and the second one is given 4,000 francs. The best film chosen by the public is awarded 20,000 francs and…. But don't worry! There still remains enough money in Swiss banks. Now, to see who wins these prizes we will go to theaters and look at different sections.
3. International Competition
This year, 18 films chosen for this section were from France, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Switzerland, Iran, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, Brazil, South Korea, Britain, Japan and China. They were all of good quality and were appropriate for a Festival such as this. This section tries to discover young directors and also famous ones who try to get out of their known path and do something new.
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