“Private” by the Italian director, Saverio Costanzo, has won this year’s Golden Leopard for the best film at the Locarno film festival.
The film takes a look at the life of a Palestinian family whose house is occupied by the Israeli military.
Costanzo’s film – which had got the unanimous vote of the jury - was honoured at a prize ceremony in the Piazza Grande, the traditional heart of the festival.
The event marks the climax of the ten-day festival – this year in its 57th edition – at the lakeside town in Ticino.
To enthusiastic applause, Costanzo thanked everyone, from the producers to the actors who took part in the film.
“It’s really the actors’ prize because it’s their story,” he told the assembled audience.
"Private" tells the story of the Palestinian English literature professor, Mohammad, who lives with his family in a strategic location between a Palestinian village and an Israeli base.
When his house is taken over by Israeli soldiers, Mohammad refuses to leave, convinced that his belief in non-violence will lead to common ground between the two sides.
Costanzo describes his work as a “docu-film”, a fictional story filmed in the style of a documentary, which is designed to show the human story behind the news.
Based on a true story, the film also symbolically uses actors from both sides of the border and Mohammad Bakri, the actor who played the main character, also scooped the Best Actor prize.
The film, which had been one of the favourites, faced stiff competition in a contest that included 18 films from 17 different countries.
Also well received by critics was “Tony Takitani” a Japanese film, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize.
Silver Leopards went to “En Garde” from Germany and “Dastan Natamam” (Story Undone), a coproduction from Iran, Ireland and Singapore.
But the only Swiss film in the international competition, “Promised Land” by Ticino director, Michael Beltrami, went away empty handed. Critics had pinned the film as an outsider in the competition due to its more original style and structure.
“Conversations de Salon 1-2-3” was the French work that won video competition and the South African film, “Forgiveness” won the new human rights prize.
Although fewer films were shown this year – 350 - this year’s line up was largely hailed as a success by audiences and critics.
But some observers said that the number of works on offer was still just too high. Other criticised the lack of Swiss films at the festival.
The festival’s artistic director, Irene Bignardi, said that despite the rain disrupting several showings, including the opening night on the Piazza Grande, she was pleased with the festival.
“I was really amazed by the reaction to certain films such as the films in the human rights section where 500-600 people gathered and the success of the “Newsfront” retrospective,” said Bignardi.
Politics was also an important theme this year, with the retrospective being devoted to journalism.
Bignardi said that topical themes were also apparent in this year’s winner of the Golden Leopard.
“The film really impressed the public and the jury for its stylistic side and then certainly also because it deals with a subject…- which is in our consciousness every day – in a very delicate way, putting the violence aside and just dealing with relationships between two groups,” Bignardi told swissinfo.
Audiences also particularly appreciated “Hacala Hasurit” (The Syrian Bride) an Israeli, French and German co-production, which won the Public’s Choice Award, while the powerful British film “The Football Factory”, about football hooligans, caused a stir.
Swiss director Beltrami told swissinfo that the festival’s special atmosphere and film-going public were some of the main factors in its overall success.
“The audience here is very film orientated, there are a lot of people who are really passionate about cinema and showing my film, which is about cinema as well, it’s thrilling,” he said.
swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Locarno
Golden Leopard: “Private”, Italy.
Silver Leopards: “En Garde", Germany and “Dastan Natamam” (Story Undone), Iran/Ireland/Singapore.
Best Actor: Mohammad Bakri, “Private”.
Best Actress: Maria Kwiatkowsky and Pinar Erincin, “En Garde”.
Special Jury Prize: “Tony Takitani”, Japan.