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Let the films roll!

View from the projection room: spectators take their seats on Locarno's Piazza Grande Keystone Archive

The 55th Locarno International Film Festival kicked off last Thursday, with nearly 200 films scheduled.

This content was published on August 5, 2002 - 17:09

A rich feast for film buffs from all over the world, the Festival runs from 1 to 11 August.

In its second year under the leadership of Irene Bignardi and Marco Solari, the event is becoming ever more ambitious. Now with a budget of over SFr8 million, this year's Festival features a varied programme, improved organization and better facilities.

For its ten-day duration, Locarno will be the world capital of cinema. With 192 films on the programme, this year's event is in fact bigger than ever, keeping pace with its rivals: Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

A broader programme

The most prestigious sections will have more popular appeal. As a result of the new status assigned to the Festival by the international film-distribution industry, more blockbusters will be on offer, in the competition proper and in Piazza Grande (Locarno's main square).

Seventeen films will be shown on the giant screen in the square, 22 in the official competition. But the Festival's openness to the wider world remains unaffected: no fewer than 17 nations will be competing for the Golden Leopard, including India and Hungary. Switzerland is represented by two co-productions.

More American films, then, and more large-budget productions, but Irene Bignardi stresses that popular appeal was not the only selection criterion: "The bigger prizes we are able to offer, and the new category, have led to a more conventional competition, but this does not mean we have not been very strict in making our selection."

And the new management has no intention of compromising where the narrative quality is concerned.

The retrospectives and special programmes have also been affected by the wind of change: more cross-fertilization between video and film, between cinema and literature, conventional storylines and experimentation, artistic independence and the distribution industry. The new Città del Cinema will be the favoured meeting place, the new "Square" for debate and sharing.

Improved infrastructure

The Città del Cinema represents an investment of SFr2.8 million. Consisting of public venues and other facilities, it has sprung up around the Palazzetto Fevi. Three auditoria provide seating for the ever-increasing audiences, and shelter for at least 5,000 spectators should the showings in Piazza Grande be drowned out by rain.

So both continuity and some surprises are in store during the ten days of the Festival. swissinfo will be reporting on Locarno with in-depth features and interviews.

Daniele Papacella

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