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Summer Academy premieres in Locarno

Summer Academy, featuring the next generation of filmmakers?

This year’s Locarno Film Festival has launched a pilot project to foster exchanges between professional filmmakers and those who are just starting out.

The programme, called the Summer Academy, is a chance for participants to network and get first-hand insight into the film industry. Nearly 50 young people from around the world applied for the 30 slots, according to academy head Gregory Catella.

“We wanted to be able to have a balance of film students, filmmakers, production designers, music composers – and we have really different profiles all together,” Catella told

The educational networking programme was held in English and its students ranged in age from 22-35.

Catella, who works for the Lugano University of Applied Arts and Sciences, has some experience in organising such events.

“When the Locarno Film Festival asked me to be the head of the Summer Academy, I was glad to accept. Something I really like to do is bring people together. When you invite [international] professional people, you really give the students good input and an open window to what could be the future for them,” he said.

The Summer Academy’s curriculum was based partly on Catella’s connections as well as the existing festival schedule. It also benefitted from Locarno’s Film Summer School, now in its 11th year.

The two programmes overlapped for a couple of days, allowing participants to double up for a workshop with Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei, whose film Space Tourists won the directing award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.


“I really enjoyed hearing his take on the ethics of documentary filmmaking. He’s very blunt, as in ‘I know I wasn’t supposed to do that and I did it anyway’,” academy student Veronica Rice told

Rice is in Locarno as part of a University of California Davis study abroad programme, where she is working on her senior thesis.

Frei also made an impression on Kurt Widorski.

“I’m a film music composer and he said that he always chooses the music first before he cuts the film, and for me it’s an interesting thing,” said Widorski, who had travelled to Locarno from Berlin.

In addition to screenings and workshops, the Summer Academy included lunch with French producer Sylvie Pialat as well as a trip to a photo exhibition with the chance to meet Swiss photographer René Burri.

“We also think it’s very important to give the students the opportunity to meet people informally during the festival,” Catella said.


Networking seemed to be a highlight for most participants, whose excited chatter between sessions was punctuated by the buzz of the coffee machine.

“I think it’s really a good experience because I get to meet a lot of people from different countries and cultures and talk about films,” said Martina Widorski, a Swiss screenwriting student.

Rice agreed: “I’ve made several contacts already and it’s great to meet people from Europe since I’m from the US.”

Frances Narvaez, originally from the Philippines, is studying film theory in Geneva. She particularly appreciated the chance to view films and meet their makers.

“It’s been a really, really fantastic experience for me – not only to network with people who have the same kind of thinking or interests, but I think it’s also a great opportunity to meet people who have done these films and to get their input,” she said.

Next generation

When visited, Maren Ade and Janine Jackowski of Komplizen Films in Germany were on hand to share their experiences with the academy students, who asked about coming up with a film’s name, location scouting and typical problems for producers.

“I think it’s fun and I like to answer the questions,” director and screenwriter Ade told While in Locarno she also served on the jury for the Filmmakers of the Present competition. Her work has been shown at the Toronto, Sundance and Berlin film festivals.

Ade’s producer colleague Jackowski also enjoyed giving advice at the workshop.

“I believe that sometimes you have to make mistakes to become better. Success has a lot to do with luck but it’s also about being courageous. Don’t try to copy anything – try to be an original,” she said.

Catella is convinced that the new Summer Academy adds value to the Locarno Film Festival. He said that when he was a student, he also came to Locarno – but that the target group then was students between 15 and 19. In comparison, the Summer Academy is geared towards students and young professionals over 20.

“Something like this was missing in Locarno and I think it’s the right strategy for the festival to invite young people who will be the next generation of filmmakers. They will probably come back to Locarno to show their first features,” he predicted.

The Locarno Summer Academy is a Locarno Film Festival pilot project that aims to sustain the flow of new blood into film in Switzerland and abroad.

This year it ran from August 5-11 and there were 30 participants from around the world.

The academy is organised in collaboration with the Swiss Italian University Film Summer School.

It enjoys the support of Ernst Göhner Stiftung (Zug), which has committed to the next two editions.

Leopard of Honour – Swiss director Alain Tanner

Leopard of Honour – Chinese director Jia Zhangke

Rezzonico Prize for Best Independent Producer – Israeli producer Menahem Golan

Excellence Award – French actress Chiara Mastroianni

Retrospective – Ernst Lubitsch

Piazza Grande – 16 feature films

International Competition – 18 films

Out of competition – 26 films

Directors of today – 19 films

Special Programme (Tributes) – 20 films

Leopards of Tomorrow – 64 short films

Open Doors – focus 2010 Central Asia

Swiss works – 34 selected for different arenas

Critics’ Week – 7 documentaries

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR