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Locarno 59 Goes Leaner; Introduces “Filmmakers of the Present” Competition

Locarno 59 Goes Leaner; Introduces "Filmmakers of the Present" Competition

Michael Mann‘s “Miami Vice” is on tap to usher in the 59th International Film Festival Locarno, taking place in the picturesque lakeside Swiss town August 2 – 12. The festival, one of the oldest in the world, will fete 25% fewer films this year, screening 170 titles compared with 250 in 2005, though Locarno is introducing its new “Filmmakers of the Present Competition,” which will fete “innovative” work. Special honorees this year include Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov (“The Lonely Human Voice,” 1987) who will receive the event’s Leopard of Honor prize, while actor Willem Dafoe will be this year’s recipient of the Locarno Excellence Award.

Mann’s “Miami Vice” will screen in the festival’s Piazza Grande, an opulent outdoor screening venue. The film, based on the ’80s television series, stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. The European debut of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris‘ “Little Miss Sunshine” is also in the Piazza Grande line up. The Sundance 2006 feature is a comedy about a family of misfits traveling to a kids’ beauty contest. Jonathan Demme‘s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” will have its international premiere in the Piazza. The doc follows Canadian singer Neil Young from the opening gigs of his “Prairie Wind.” Aki Kaurismaki‘s “Lights in the Dusk” is also on tap as part of the festival’s Aki Kaurismaki Retrospective. The film is the final installment in the Finnish director’s “loser trilogy” and set in Helsinki.

Twenty-one films make up this year’s international competition roster, including fifteen world premieres. Two Sundance 2006 titles, “Half Nelson” by Ryan Fleck and Hilary Brougher‘s “Stephanie Daley” will make their international debuts in the competition. Starring Tilda Swinton, Amber Tamblyn and Timothy Hutton, “Daley” centers on sixteen year-old Stephanie Daley, who is accused of terminating her own pregnancy and killing the child, while Fleck’s “Half Nelson” stars Ryan Gosling as a popular inner-city high school teacher who is passionate about his job, but also harbors a self-destructive crack cocaine habit.

French/Belgian production “Fragments Sur la Grace” will open Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present Competition. The film, directed by Vincent Dieutre, revolves around a filmmaker who attempts a full immersion in the incandescent world of Port-Royal and Jansenism. According to the festival, the film contains “Baroque readings from texts written in old French with idyllic landscapes. The historical research is gradually transformed into a dizzying, swirling, disorientating work.” Brazilian filmmakers Cao Guimaraes and Pablo Lobato‘s “Acidente” (world premiere) is a “poetic account of the country’s thousand different souls.” The film weaves a tapestry of scenes filmed in twenty cities with a variety of styles and characters. American director Malik Bader joins the section with the international premiere of his first feature, “Street Thief.” The documentary follows the daily life of a professional thief who is “proud of his skills and very conscientious about his ‘job.'”

Also from the U.S. is “Wild Tigers I Have Known” by Cam Archer. The feature is the story of a timid and solitary adolescent who discovers his sexual identity via late night phone calls to a boy his age. Gus Van Sant and Scott Rudin produced the film. Sundance 2006’s “TV Junkie” by Michael Cain and Matt Radecki also joins this year’s Filmmakers of the Present. The doc, told through “video diaries” filmed by the doc’s subject, is a heart-wrenching story of a man who became a successful television personality and father who then obliterates his success by way of drugs and self-destruction.

[For more information and a full line up, visit the Locarno Film Festival’s website.]

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