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Film festival Locarno 70 years of independent cinema with a message

The Locarno film festival has boasted an impressive list of prominent attendees since 1946. They include some of the top screen directors, notably Roberto Rossellini, Abbas Kiarostami, Jim Jarmusch or Wim Wenders.

True to its spirit of freedom, the festival has never been afraid of challenging critics and resisting attempts at censorship and has showcased films from far-flung countries and little-known directors.  

It all began on August 23, 1946 when the first festival was held in the sloped gardens of Locarno's Grand Hotel. The Second World War was barely over and the big European film festivals of Cannes and Venice were scheduled for September that year. Locarno, a town in Italian-speaking Switzerland, seized the opportunity to be the first to organise such a cultural event.

Over the years, it has proven to be a showcase for independent cinema: the heyday of Italian neorealism, the pioneers of the French Nouvelle Vague, the discovery of films from Soviet bloc countries and cinema from Asia. Not to forget some of the names of directors whose international careers were launched in Locarno, such as Milos Forman, Marco Bellocchio, Alain Tanner, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Abbas Kiarostami or Pedro Costa.

swissinfo.ch invites you on a journey through the festival history.

(Translated from Italian, ug)