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Rain fails to dampen Bignardi's enthusiasm

Locarno's artistic director, Irene Bignardi (right), with the Leopard of Honour winner, Ermanno Olmi

(Keystone)

The 57th Locarno film festival has officially drawn to a close with the Italian film, “Private”, winning the Golden Leopard.

swissinfo spoke to artistic director, Irene Bignardi, about her views on the winning film and on whether the festival had been a success – despite the rain.

“Private” tells the story of a Palestinian English-literature professor, Mohammad, and his family, whose house is taken over by Israeli soldiers.

Based on a true story, the film used actors from both sides of the border. Mohammad Bakri, the actor who played the main character, also scooped the Best Actor prize.

In total, the slimmed-down Locarno offered 350 films, short films and documentaries this year.

Apart from the competitions and the films on the Piazza Grande, there was also a retrospective on journalism, a tribute to the late Marlon Brando and a human-rights section.

swissinfo: What are your views on the winning film and how important was the political aspect?

Irene Bignardi: First of all the winning film is a very good film and, as far as I understood, when the jury saw it, they liked it not so much for the political aspect, but for the way it dealt with this kind of claustrophobic situation.

I think the film really impressed the public and the jury with its stylistic side and 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 the relationships between two groups.

It’s a very powerful and intelligent film, and I’m very happy with the award.

swissinfo: How do you feel the festival went this year? Was it a success?

I.B.: I had the feeling it worked very well except for a few problems created by the heavy rains.

I was really amazed by the reaction to certain films, such as the films in the human-rights section where 500 to 600 people gathered, and the success of the “Newsfront” retrospective.

It was not only the classical films like “Citizen Kane” [that were successful], but also especially the ones which were the final points of the retrospective, where journalism and cinema merge in documentaries, like “Uncovered: The War on Iraq” or “Control Room”.

swissinfo: There’s been some criticism that there’s still too much on offer, even with the reduced number of films at the festival.

I.B.: Go and say the same thing to Montreal, Toronto or Venice, even if they claim to be thinner this year. This is the normal ratio of proposals that a festival should offer the people who come here and spend the money.

We have put the festival to a slimming diet, we have had at least ten to 15 per cent hours less [this year] and so we were able to make more repetitions, which should make everybody hopefully happy.

swissinfo: What are your future plans for the festival?

I.B.: We have already had a few ideas that I will not disclose… but certainly we know what we want to do for two or three of our major sidebars.

I think that Locarno must work in this domain of research, of thematic retrospectives, which allows us to also bring here bordering forms of culture, not only cinema.

This is what is specific to Locarno… and I think this is what our public wants from us and what we want to offer to our public - not a traditional classic festival with the big films, the stars, but a lot of curiosities, a lot of openness to other forms of arts and cinema.

swissinfo-interview: Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Locarno

Key facts

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.

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