Vitalina Varela scoops Golden Leopard film award

Director Pedro Costa and actress Vitalina Varela with their Locarno Film Festival awards. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

“Vitalina Varela” by Portuguese director Pedro Costa won the Golden Leopard prize for the best movie at the Locarno Film Festival in southern Switzerland.  Vitalina Varela was judged best actress for her role in the eponymous film on Saturday.

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The movie focuses on a 55-year-old woman from Cape Verde who arrives in Portugal three days after her husband's funeral only to face the sad reality of living in a slum. The jury heaped praise on the film, saying it deserved a place in the cultural heritage of worldwide cinema.

Costa had previously won a Silver Leopard prize as best director in 2014. This year, that award went to Damien Manivel from France for his film “Les enfants d'Isadora”. The award for best male actor went to Regis Myrupu who starred in the Brazilian movie A Febre (The Fever).

Featuring more than 200 films from 60 countries, the 72nd Locarno Film Festival saw audiences of up to 8,000 people per evening at the city’s central Piazza Grande outdoor venue.

Running from August 7 to 17, the festival started with a tribute to Swiss film critic and historian Freddy Buache, who passed away earlier this year. Known as “Monsieur Cinéma”, Buache was director of the Locarno festival from 1966 to 1970.

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