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Locarno FF: Interview with Carlo Chatrian

Locarno FF: Interview with Carlo Chatrian

I recently sat down
with Carlo Chatrian, newly appointed artistic director of the Locarno
International Film Festival
at his office which is only blocks away from the strikingly
picturesque Piazza Grande where the outdoor screen and 8,000 seats are now being
set up. We discussed his new position, his vision for the Festival, the
American films that will be screened in and out of competition, and some of the
many highlights and events that begin on August 7 and run for eleven days.

Of his new role as
artistic director of the Festival, Chatrian states: “It was an honor and
pleasure to take this position.  It is a
new adventure for me.”  

Chatrian’s passion
for filmmakers, cinema and its history is zealously conveyed whether talking
about the Festival’s tributes to Christopher Lee, Anna Karina, Faye
Dunaway, Sergio Castellitto, Otar Iosseliani, Jacqueline Bisset, Margaret Ménégoz and Douglas Trumbull — to the Pardi
di domani (Leopards of tomorrow) a competitive section that will screen shorts
and medium-length films by young independent auteurs or film school students,
who have not yet directed a feature — to the films screened on the Piazza
Grande — to the Festival’s sidebar
Histoire(s) du cinéma.

“Films belong to a
wider history,” Chatrian further emphasizes when discussing Histoire(s) du cinéma, (a reference to Jean-Luc Godard’s
masterpiece).  Dedicated to the history
of cinema, “this section embodies the identity of the Festival.”  These offerings include newly restored prints
of rare and important works in film history; (for the George Cukor
retrospective an international preview of a remastered 3D version of The
Wizard of Oz)
, documentaries about actors and filmmakers the Festival is
honoring, as well as works presented by the Cinémathèque Suisse as part of
Swiss Cinema rediscovered.


“When you compose a
competition you have to work with new films; it’s important to combine various aspects
into a wider program. One of the things that is really important in Locarno,
here, maybe more than other film festivals, are the films belonging in dialogue
with past films to new. To look at cinema in a new way.”

Chatrian describes
his vision of the Festival “as a mosaic, composing the puzzle of the story of cinema.”
He adds:  “Diversity is important.” This
diversity is further explored in Chatrian’s Director’s statement in which he

In line with the Festival’s tradition and our own wish to
break down barriers, we have tried to establish a dialogue between historic and
contemporary cinema, between independent and mainstream productions,
documentary and fiction, experimental and essay forms. The only categorical imperative
was to work with diversity, take it to extremes, to the point where
contradictions emerge. Behind the organization of this year’s Festival lies a
concept fed by opposites: not with any intention of molding them into a single
line of thought, but rather welcoming them as the different souls that make up
cinema and the world.

Reflected in this
year’s programs are the connections to past films and how these works are linked
to each other, and at times come full circle. 
Chatrian cites the examples of the Festival’s posthumous tribute to Portuguese
director Paulo Rocha, whose films were
launched at the Locarno
Film Festival fifty years ago — to the tribute to Anna Karina, “not only a great
actress who worked with Godard and George Cukor, there is that connection to
Rocha’s films in the Portugal New Wave and Anna Karina’s relationship to the
French New Wave.”

Chatrian continues:
“It’s like a web that makes different connections. Another example: Joaqim Pinto,
Portuguese director of the film in competition, Eagora?? Lembra-Me? (What Now? Remind Me) was just a child when he
went on set when Paulo Rocha was shooting his second feature.”

New American Films at the Festival

The five films coming
from the United States include SXSW Grand Jury winner Short Term 12 by Destin Cretton and The Dirties directed by Matthew Johnson, which Chatrian describes
as “a challenging work of editing. A film within a film. The main characters
are supposed to shoot a film, but at the same time they are being bullied by a
group of other students because of their identity.  The film is funny; sometimes a tribute to Ed
Wood, but it also conveys a sort of criticism of the world of school.”

Dedicated to emerging
international directors and devoted to first and second features, Chatrian comments
on the Concorso Cineasti del presente – (Filmmakers of the Present) “Some of
these films raise a lot of questions rather than give answers. They are not
straight forward; they are more art-house.”

Chatrian describes Forty Years From
directed by first-time feature directors Robert Machoian and
Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck: “Works
with lengths of shots; it’s deeply emotive. 
It tries to convey something
that is difficult; grief, and empathy between camera and character.”

“Two films that
challenge cinematic form are Manakamana and The Unity of all Things.”  The feature documentary Manakamana is synopsized by its directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho
Velez:  High above a jungle in Nepal,
pilgrims make an ancient journey by cable car to worship Manakamana. Chatrian calls
it “a contemplative film with powerful sequences of long takes.” On the first
feature The Unity of all Things directed
by Alex Carver and Daniel Schmidt, Chatrian states: “A very experimental film
based on a big subject, a tough subject — the idea of time; it has a metaphysical
point of view.” 

The science fiction
film Dignity, directed by James
Fotopoulos, is described by Chatrian, “like a 1960s trip” and remarks on this film’s connection to Douglas Trumbull, the
special effects artist and director, who will receive Locarno’s Festival First
Vision Award. “It is a nice tribute to Trumbull and how it relates to his work
on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close
Encounters of the Third Kind,
and as the director of Silent Running.”

as Journeyman – Werner Herzog

Another connection to
the United States is from European director, Werner Herzog, (this year’s
honoree of the Pardo d’onore Swisscom) who is now living in the states.  The Festival will present the world premiere
of the four episodes that comprise Herzog’s new mini-series Death Row II, which documents four more
cases from death row prisons in Texas. Chatrian says of this work: “a precise
look at the American justice system and the American people.”

For cinephiles the
world over, the Locarno International Film Festival offers a wide range of work
from the past and present, and inspiration for the future of cinema around the

The Locarno
International Film Festival runs from August 7-17, 2013.  For more information visit:

About Susan Kouguell

screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at
Tufts University and presents international seminars.  Author of SAVVY
SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson
of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she
works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide.

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