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DISPATCH FROM SWITZERLAND | “The Rebirth” Wins Locarno Leopard as 60th Festival Comes to a Close

DISPATCH FROM SWITZERLAND | "The Rebirth" Wins Locarno Leopard as 60th Festival Comes to a Close

Masahiro Kobayashi‘s “The Rebirth” (Ai No Yokan) won the coveted Golden Leopard as the 60th Locarno International Film Festival concluded on Saturday evening with an awards ceremony in the town’s Piazza Grande. The Japanese film stars the filmmaker as a man who develops a bond with the mother of the girl who killed his own daughter. Also on Saturday night, the Special Jury Prize in the competition went to Pedro Costa, Harun Farocki, and Eugene Green‘s “Memories,” a unique joint digital project initiated by Korea’s Jeonju International Film Festival.

The Locarno festival continued in full swing all week with a packed screening of Peter Entell‘s “Shake the Devil Off“, a world premiere in the “Ici & Ailleurs” section – a title taken from Godard’s 1976 documentary of the same name. “Shake the Devil Off” is one of those rare documentaries that combines an engaging central character, a clear struggle in progress, and an unexpected ending. The film follows Father Ledoux, a noble New Orleans priest who is trying to stop the closure of his parish after it falls on hard times in the post-Katrina chaos. As the fight evolves, students and others both black and white, join forces to occupy the church in an act of civil disobedience, and heroes are born as the cameras roll.

Also in the Ici & Ailleurs section, “Sally Gross – The Pleasure of Stillness“, a 56-minute video piece by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile, had its world premiere to a very receptive audience. A meditative portrait of 70-year-old dancer and choreographer Sally Gross, the doc shows her every day life in New York City, as she continues to work with great vitality on a new contemporary ballet. Maysles’ camerawork is, as always, beautifully simple and unobtrusive, letting unfold what may – although it can make one pine for the days when he shot exclusively on film. The screening was coupled with a short by Sally Gross and Susan Brockman, shot on 16mm in 1978, entitled “Stopped in her Tracks“, a rare performance piece about the sudden death of Gross’ sister.

Swiss-born director Lionel Baier screened his film “Comme Des Voleurs” (a l’est), and in his typical style manages to make fiction feel like fact, combining accomplished actors with amateurs. In the film, the character Lionel discovers he has Polish origins, and begins to question his Swiss identity. Ultimately he becomes obsessed with his roots, taking his sister on a search for the truth.

In Ulrike von Ribbeck‘s world premiere “Fruher Oder Spater” (Sooner or Later), we follow a 14-year-old girl who lives in an introverted dream world while her parents try to cope with the real one. As she falls for a neighbor, her family seems to fall apart. Inspired by the director’s real-life experiences, her debut feature was developed at the Cannes Cinefondation workshop in 2005, after several accomplishments in short filmmaking.

Juan Sanz and Marian Alvarez in “Lo Mejor de Mi”, for which Alvarez won Best Actress at the Locarno International Film Festival. Photo provided by the festival.

At Saturday’s awards ceremony, the prize for Best Director was awarded to Philippe Ramos for “Capitaine Achab“, loosely based on Melville’s Moby Dick, while the best actress prize went to Marian Alvares for “Lo Mejor de Mi” and best actor nods shared by Michel Piccoli in “Sous les Toits de Paris” and Michele Venitucci for “Fuori Dalle Corde“. A Special Mention was awarded to Cho Sang-yoon, director of photography on “Boys of Tomorrow“.

In the Filmmakers of the Present Competition, the Golden Leopard was awarded to Benedek Fliegauf‘s dreamlike collage of sequences, “Tejut” (Milky Way), with a Special Jury Prize going to Corso Salani‘s “Imatra,” the third part of a series of documentaries about unusual and nearly unknown places in Europe. Mijke de Jong‘s “Tussenstand” received a Special Mention in this category.

The Leopard for Best First Film went to Vittorio Rifranti‘s “Tagliare Le Parti in Grigio“, the story of three people bonded by their experiences while surviving a serious accident, and the Public’s Choice Award for Films in the Piazza was given to Frank Oz‘s comedic “Death at a Funeral, soon to be released in the U.S. by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

Awards were also given out to the Leopards of Tomorrow, with the Pardino d’oro in the International Competition going to Adrian Sitaru‘s “Valuri” (Waves), and the Pardino d’argento in the same category going to Ismet Ergun‘s “Bende Sira“. In the Swiss Competition, the Pardino d’oro was awarded to Tobias Nolle‘s “Rene“, while the Pardino d’argento was given to Florence Guillermin‘s “Latitude 2023“.

The awards ceremony was followed by the closing night film, Lech Kowalski‘s world premiere documentary, appropriately titled “Winners and Losers,” a personal perspective on last year’s infamous World Cup final match between Italy and France.

For a complete list of winners, please visit the Locarno International Film Festival website.

Jonny Leahan’s previous dispatch from the Locarno International Film Festival was published earlier this week here at indieWIRE.com

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