Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 6, is the kick off for the 67th edition of the Locarno Film Festival, which unspools approximately 100 features over the next ten days. The long running Summer event continues to surprise, positioned to introduce its eclectic fare in advance of the major Fall festivals when some of their selections will come to North America for the first time. In contrast to some of the other A-list fests, the Swiss festival affords significant space in its slate for nonfiction and hybrid work – approximately 30 features this year – with such offerings typically appearing spread throughout its sections rather than relegated to one ghettoized program. The following spotlights some of this work:
By my count, there are eight docs or hybrids vying for awards between the two main competition this year. In the Concorso internazionale, these are Fernand Melgar’s L’ABRI, a night in the life of a Swiss homeless shelter; and JP Sniadecki’s THE IRON MINISTRY (pictured), a study of China’s immense rail system. Meanwhile, the first and second doc features competing in the Concorso Cineasti del presente include: Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s Toronto-bound SILVERED WATER, SYRIA SELF-PORTRAIT, a collectively shot portrait of life during a civil war; Daniel Touati’s BROTHER AND SISTER, an intimate exploration of a sibling bond; Antoine Boutet’s SOUTH TO NORTH, a meditation on a massive water relocation project in China; and Yoo Soon-mi’s SONGS FROM THE NORTH, a non-satiric view of North Korea and its people. Also screening here are hybrid projects from Simone Rapisarda Casanova – THE CREATION OF MEANING, about a shepherd in the Tuscan Alps forced to contend with modernity – and Ricardo Silva – NAVAJAZO, focused on the struggle for survival in the border town of Tijuana.
Included among the six nonfiction works screening in the out of competition Fuori Concorso are: Zhu Rikun’s THE DOSSIER, a profile of an outspoken Tibetan critic of China’s policy toward her country; Sawada Masa’s I, KAMIKAZE, a memoir of a 90-year-old former WWII Japanese kamikaze pilot; and Pierre Schoeller’s LE TEMPS PERDU (pictured), which follows Syrian refugees to an Iraqi Kurdistan camp.
In Locarno’s version of Semaine de la critique, only docs appear, with titles including: Neasa Ni Chianain’s THE STRANGER, an investigation into the death of a mysterious English artist on a small Irish island; Xu Hongjie’s ON THE RIM OF THE SKY, about the unexpected impact of a newcomer on a remote Sichuan village; Stephanie Barbey and Luc Peter’s BROKEN LAND, focused on a US border town and its responses to immigration; and Damien Froidevaux’s DEATH OF THE SERPENT GOD (pictured), on a young woman deported from her Paris family to a remote Senegalese village.
Additional docs appear in the local filmmaking showcase, Panorama Suisse, including Amos Angeles and Veli Silver’s global graffiti travelogue, STYLE WARS 2, and Nicole Vögele’s experimental FOG; the innovation sidebar, Signs of Life, including Ziad Kalthoum’s personal chronicle of daily life during the Syrian revolution, THE IMMORTAL SERGEANT; the meta filmmaking strand, Histoire(s) du cinéma, including Cem Kaya’s love letter to popular Turkish cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, REMAKE, REMIX, RIPOFF (pictured), and Peter Von Bagh’s pop culture illustrated political history, SOCIALISM; and in strands focused on jury members’ work, special presentations, and retrospectives of Agnes Varda.