By Guest Blogger Peter Belsito
Based on the northern end of Lago Maggiore high above Milan in the Alps, Locarno is a delightful Swiss town that looks like Italy only they all speak German … go figure. The Festival occupies an interesting time slot in the annual ‘Film Circuit’ – which is dead on in the middle of summer. The European trade is always well represented at this very charming event.
The fest’s new artistic Head is Olivier Pere. For his first edition, Pere, former Head of Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, is giving the 63-year-old fest a smaller program, promising original, interesting, innovative works, rather than the usual festival goal of (yawn) a luxury showcase for world cinema. The fest lineup includes 40 world premieres, half of which are by first-time feature directors.
Opening Locarno’s 63rd edition will be French director Benoit Jacquot’s period drama Au fond des bois (being sold by Films Distribution), which will screen in the 8,000-seat outdoor Piazza Grande. This is perhaps the most unique screening environment in the world. Folding chairs are set up in this beautiful piazza leading down to ‘il Lago’ where evening screenings are held on a giant screen in the summer twilight.
U.S. cinema is represented by an interesting film we saw recently in Manhattan at a private screening. Brooklyn-based director Kitao Sakurai’s Aardvark, about a blind man practicing martial arts. It is in the section Filmmakers of the Present. This section also includes a U.S. doc Foreign Parts, about junkyards in the industrial wasteland ‘ Iron Triangle’ in Queens (land of my childhood), film being by Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki.
Publicist Richard Lormand told us today of two films he is repping there from the always very interesting German Cologne based Match Factory International Sales Company, headed by Michael Weber. Their two films are in Competition during the first weekend are Im Alter Von Ellen (At Ellen’s Age) is the second feature from German director Pia Marais (who previously directed the Rotterdam winner The Unpolished). Also screening is Womb an English-language feature from Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf (last in Locarno in 2007 with his Golden Leopard of the Present winner Milky Way).
The Locarno Sales Office headed by the wonderful and omnipresent Nadia Dresti is trumpeting some early pickups. Paris based MK2 took world sales on premier Romanian helmer Bogdan Apetri’s Periferic, depicting tough lives on the outskirts of Bucharest.
Two new Italian companies acquired Locarno titles: Flavio Donnini’s Rome-based Ellipsis Media Intl. has taken world sales on Daniele Gaglianone’s Pietro. New distributor Atlantide Entertainment took Italian rights to Bruce LaBruce’s L.A. Zombie, with which Atlantide Entertainment is launching its gay-themed Queer Frame label.
Interestingly, the Locarno Industry Office also has a pact in place with Europa Distribution — a network of 67 Eurpean indie distributors formed to collectively develop marketing strategies on titles that its members often buy as a group. It was launched last year.
The sales office predicts up to 200 buyers will attend Locarno’s Industry Days, which will run Aug. 7-9. All competition titles will screen for the trade during these three days, thus the market and Fest organizers hope to encourage more sales activity.