Locarno 2019: Documentary Overview

The 72nd Locarno Film Festival

August 7-17

This long-running Swiss A-list fest presents 30 documentaries among its line-up of approximately 90 new and recent features.


Nonfiction or hybrid work accounts for nearly a third of Locarno’s official competitive sections, though but one doc appears in the main Concorso internazionale, Maya Khoury’s DURING REVOLUTION, which documents activists during the Syrian civil war over six years. Representation is better in the Concorso Cineasti del presente, with a quarter of that section: Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter’s hybrid SPACE DOGS, an exploration of Moscow’s street dogs and the canine cosmonaut Laika; Yoon Sung-a’s OVERSEAS, which follows the training of Filipino domestic workers before they head abroad; Maya Kosa and Sergio da Costa’s BIRD ISLAND, about a young man who participates in a rehabilitation program caring for injured birds; and Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Adrian Jackson’s hybrid HERE FOR LIFE, in which Londoners share stories about gentrification. Finally, all of the features in Moving Ahead, the re-named Signs of Life competition, are docs or hybrids, including Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s KRABI, 2562, which explores storytelling among the inhabitants of the titular Thai town; Lukas Marxt’s RALF’S COLORS, about the inner life of a schizophrenic; and Éric Baudelaire’s UN FILM DRAMATIQUE, a collaboration with and about French suburban middle schoolers.


Documentary is more strongly represented in the fest’s non-competitive strands. The Fuori concorso includes: Olivier Zabat’s ARGUMENTS, a profile of individuals who have auditory hallucinations; Giovanni Cioni’s NOT A DREAM, which looks at a prison’s theatre program; Sima Khatami and Aldo Lee’s BEING JÉRÔME BEL, a contentious portrait of the notoriously rebellious choreographer; and Marie Losier’s FELIX IN WONDERLAND, on electronic musician Felix Kubin. The autonomous Semaine de la critique consists of only doc features, such as: David Vogel’s SHALOM ALLAH, which follows Swiss people who convert to Islam; Sébastien Lifshitz’s ADOLESCENTES, a longitudinal look at two teenage girls’ lives; and Reza Farahmand’s COPPER NOTES OF A DREAM, about a 10-year-old in Syria who dreams of being a musician.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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