The Locarno film festival first sees the light of day on August 23, 1946 thanks to an initiative by a group of far-sighted fans of the big screen. Locarno Film Festival, entrance in 1946
Italy's post-war neorealism marks the first phase of the history of the Locarno film festival. In 1948, Roberto Rossellini's Germania Anno Zero (Germany Year Zero) wins the main prize. Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle thieves) is only awarded a jury prize, causing public discontent and protests. pado.ch
Italian stars Vittorio De Sicca and Gina Lollobrigida (from left) bring a touch of glamour to the shores of Lake Maggiore after only a few years, making Locarno a precursor of the star-studded Cannes film festival. (Keystone/Locarno Festival)
In the 1940s and 1950s, big posters with the stars of the screen are erected on the square in front of Locarno's railway station. Locarno Film Festival
Marlène Dietrich is at the centre of the Locarno festival in 1960. The Hollywood star of German origin comments laconically: "As an actress I'm just part of the photo album and that album remains silent." Festival del film Locarno
Following the screening of a series of films by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in 1959, a regular retrospective section is launched in the 1960s and it soon becomes a feather in the cap of the festival. Keystone
Killer's Kiss by a certain Stanley Kubrick wins the special prize of the jury in 1959, although his film was released five years previously. Look Magazine Collection
Locarno defies the Cold War era and puts films from Soviet bloc countries on the bill. This draws sharp criticism from parts of the Swiss-German press which accuse the organisers of being pro-Communist. A young director from Czechoslovakia, Milos Forman, is awarded the top prize in 1964 for best short film, Loves of a Woman. The same director would win international acclaim with One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest more than a decade later. Festival del film Locarno
The Leopard awards are introduced at Locarno in 1968, but the festival is nearly overcome by a political upset and its impact. The festival jury, led by Jiri Menzel from Czechoslovakia, steps down in protest of the invasion of Prague by Soviet troops. The festival organisers act fast and appoint a jury of young film experts. Keystone
In 1969 a new generation of Swiss filmmakers make their appearance in Locarno. They include Michel Soutter, Fredi M. Murer, Yves Yersin and Francis Reusser, Claude Chamption and Clemens Klopfenstein. Alain Tanner (pictured) wins the Golden Leopard award with Charles mort ou vif (Charles, Dead or Alive) and goes on to make Swiss films known across Europe. cinémathèque suisse
Fredi M. Murer (left) wins the Golden Leopard award in 1985 with Höhenfeuer (Alpine Fire), one of the best Swiss films of the period. It's not until 2006 that another Swiss film finished top in Locarno with Das Fräulein (Fraulein) by Andrea Staka. Keystone
1971 marks a turning point for Locarno. The Piazza Grande (Main square) becomes an open-air cinema, giving the festival its distinctive feature. Locarno Film Festival
Amerian director and actor Spike Lee makes his first trip across the Atlantic to Europe to present his film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershp: We Cut Heads, and wins the Golden Leopard award at Locarno in 1983. His acclaimed film becomes a cinema legend of its time. Keystone
Rockabilly quiff hairstyle and the look of a rebel: in 1984 an unknown American director, Jim Jarmusch, is awarded the Golden Leopard prize for his film Stranger than Paradise. Keystone
Locarno attracts more than 100,000 spectators to the festival in 1989, setting a new record. The Piazza Grande hosts 9,200 people who came to watch Mystery Train by director Jim Jarmusch. Keystone
Locarno and Iranian cinema have a special relationship. Some young Iranian filmmakers made their first significant steps at the Swiss festival. Among them is Abbas Kiarostami, who wins a Bronze Leopard award in 1989. His fellow countryman, Jafar Panahi, takes the top award for Ayneh (The mirror) in 1997 - the 50th anniversary edition of the festival. akg-images
Marco Müller, festival director for eight years from 1992, would bring his favourite Chinese cinema to Locarno. Two films from China, Baba by Wang Shuo and Little Cheung (picture) by Fruit Chan win a Golden and Silver Leopard respectively in Müller's final year. Keystone
At the turn of the century, a record 175,000 spectators flock to Locarno and its open-air screen. Keystone
British director Ken Loach has been a regular in Locarno, making four personal appearances between 1981 and 2016. The audience on the Piazza Grande applaud him on stage for a record 18 minutes after receiving the Leopard of Honour award in 2003. Festival del film Locarno, 2016
It is in 2005 when German director Wim Wenders stands on the Piazza Grande stage, holding the microphone and saying in Italian: "Everybody asks me what it's like to get a Honorary Leopard award. Well, now I know: I've turned into leopard myself". Locarno Festival
Locarno has always given plenty of space to European cinema. German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of the Others) captivated the audience on the Piazza Grande in 2006. The film would win an Oscar for best foreign language film in Hollywood the following year. The picture shows actor Friedrich Mühe (1979-2007), who played a Stasi agent. pado.ch
Many stars of the big screen came to Ticino in the 1940s and 1950s, but nowadays Locarno is up against stiff competition from other, no doubt more glamorous, festivals. Nevertheless big names still find their way to the festival on Lake Maggiore, like French actress Juliette Binoche in 2014. Festival del film Locarno/Carlo Reguzzi
One eye looking back to the past and keeping the other turned toward the future - this is the motto of this year's film festival, its 70th edition. In this spirit, Locarno presents for competition La Telenovela Errante, by Raoul Ruiz. The Chilean filmmaker first came to the Swiss festival in 1968. His film was believed to be lost until a copy was later found and restored. It is one of the highlights of this year and underlines the long and special relationship between Locarno and cinema from Latin America. pado.ch
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.
This content was published on August 2, 2017 - 14:00
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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)
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