The 2017 Locarno Film Festival recently wrapped its 70th edition, where several aspiring film critics participated in the latest edition of the Locarno Critics Academy, an international workshop to educate promising writers in the craft and discipline of contemporary film criticism. This year’s participants will contribute essays on highlights from the festival. Here’s an overview of their backgrounds and interests.
Name: Jaime Grijalba Gómez
Twitter handle: @jaimegrijalba
Home: Santiago de Chile, Chile.
Cinematic area of expertise: Chilean cinema, film festivals, horror cinema
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: El mar la mar
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: Bresson’s “Notes on the Cinematographer”
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I want to think that criticism today still has a role that goes beyond those interested in film or in making them. It has a role in society, and I want to find it.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I’d like to think that I bring something of my personal life, that I make it about my reaction, personal, flawed and not objective at all. I won’t hide that.
Name: Irina Trocan
Home: Bucharest, Romania
Cinematic area of expertise: For my PhD research, video essays/essay cinema. As not-so-guilty pleasure, I love films from Hollywood’s Golden Age
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro.” Because 1) as a portrait of James Baldwin, it focuses on his world view rather than his private life or public persona, and that’s the best that any writer could hope for; 2) it’s pretty wide-ranging in how it integrates media (mainstream cinema, documentary images of riots etc.) to prove how they (mis)represent African Americans; 3) the flow of Baldwin’s writing perfectly carries into the images. Peck and editor Alexandra Strauss carefully balance illustrative montage with more neutral shots that give the emotional effects time to register.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: It changes with cinephile/research priorities. I’ve recently discovered Volker Pantenburg’s Farocki/Godard: “Film as Theory,” which compares the two filmmakers’ work (and makes the similarities so obvious that you wonder why nobody did it before) and frames their essay films within the larger domain of film theory. Very briefly put, Pantenburg shows how Godard and Farocki try to use the medium of film for theoretical reflection, without needing words as the primary tool for making an argument.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’ve followed the Locarno festival from a distance for a while and was enthusiastically looking for an opportunity to attend. The workshop seems to be a very disciplined training program and a good occasion to meet fellow cinephiles. I want to nurture this urge to write about film, hopefully better and better, for as long as it’s pragmatically possible.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? Having had the chance to observe the New Romanian Cinema and its festival success over more than a decade, I learned a lot about how films communicate and how and to what extent the audience wants to see and hear something familiar, even when taking on more “exotic” films. By studying essay cinema in the past years, I think I discovered a lot about how images distort the truth (and by this I don’t primarily mean cinematic images – social media and advertisement shouldn’t be excluded) and hopefully I learned a thing or two about what criticism can do to counter this effect.
Name: Matt Turner
Twitter handle: @mattlloydturner
Home: London. (Seat A7 in BFI NFT3.)
Cinematic area of expertise: I’m a little young to have expertise in anything yet, but recently I’ve been most interested in documentary and in artist’s moving image, and exploring points of intersection between the two.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: Hong Sang-soo’s “On the Beach at Night Alone.” Simon Liu’s “Highview.”
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: I like writing that is very personal, autobiographical even, or that brings in other interests or aspects of experience, or even writing that is only tangentially about film or sits adjacent to it. My favourite book is Susan Howes’ “Sorting Facts,” a book of poetry inspired by Chris Marker. Other good ones I’ve been pointed towards are Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Leger, which I read earlier this year, Masha Tupitsyn’s “Beauty Talk & Monsters,” which I just finished, and maybe James Baldwin’s “The Devil Finds Work” too, which I just started. Hit me up on Twitter with further recommendations.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I have a lot to learn. I’ve always wanted to attend Locarno as there seems, more than any other festival, to be a synchronicity between my interests and the sort of aesthetic I’m drawn towards and the festival’s approach to programming. The academy seems like the most opportune way to experience the festival, offering access, visibility, mentorship and meal tokens. Many of my small time heroes are past participants, and I’m excited to join their ranks. I’ve printed business cards and prepared a fruit schedule, the rest will come.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? To be honest, that’s one of the things I’m hoping to identify through this experience. It is the act of discovery that primarily drives my cinephilia, and I’ve done well so far at managing to focus on lower profile filmmakers and more marginal subjects, so I am grateful to my editors for allowing for that. I’d like to push this exploratory approach further, and really be able to achieve success in directing people towards more outlier work and spotlighting those that receive the least attention. If I can do this in surprising and disruptive ways, even better.
Name: Leonardo Goi
Twitter handle: @LeonardoGoi
Home: Italy/UK/Colombia (somewhere in between the three)
Cinematic area of expertise: The filmographies of Richard Linklater, Mike Mills, Paolo Sorrentino, Nanni Moretti, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” It’s been some time since I last saw someone confronting racism on the big screen with the same rollicking mix of irony, rigor, and originality.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: Werner Herzog’s “The Conquest of the Useless.” It’s a priceless behind-the-scenes look at an extraordinary work (“Fitzcarraldo”), an exquisite portrait of a cinematic due like no other (Kinski & Herzog), and a astounding document of the joys, sorrows and frustrations of filmmaking seen through Herzog’s own eyes.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’ve never been part of a network that brought together young critics from all over the world and provided a space where conversations about films and criticism could flourish. I am beyond excited to meet fellow movie-lovers and make friendships and connections that will hopefully last well beyond Locarno. I’ve kept film criticism as a “side thing” since my early teens and I trust the Locarno Critics Academy will help me to turn it into a future profession.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I like to think of critics as midwives – as people who do not command or expect a certain emotional response by the viewer, but help him articulate his own. That’s something I’d like my writing to achieve. People need critics – the challenge is to make sure audiences remain engaged with them.
Name: Zoe Meng Jiang.
Home: I come from China, and now live in New York.
Cinematic area of expertise: I’m very interested in global art film in general, and I studied documentary film, Chinese cinema in more depth, and a bit of video art.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: Get Out. So smart and so entertaining.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: Deleuze’s “Cinema II: The Time-Image” is one that I have to keep returning to.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… It’s Locarno!
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I strive to find ways to “see” films not through a purely visual paradigm, but as a form of embodied knowledge – what Vivian Sobchack would call “carnal thoughts.” Eventually it leads to a rooted, experiential connection between the world’s material condition and the aspiration of change – in whatever scale there could be.
Name: Timo Posselt
Twitter handle: @timoposselt
Home: Basel, Switzerland
Cinematic area of expertise: Beyond other advantages as a cinephile in Switzerland you get to see a lot of French and other European cinema. Beginning with recording the films of favorite directors shown on television stations from all over Europe on VHS as a teenager and followed by plowing through the programs of the local arthouse cinemas, European cinema has always been my passion. Since a stay in Norway and with my fluency in Norwegian, I added Scandinavian cinema to my special interests.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: Sally Potter’s “The Party” is a jazzy, up-tempo comedy shot in sharp black and white that made me laugh out loud, while trying to follow its high pace punchlines. Although Potter’s great actors are far beyond my age, the subjects she gives her characters to deal with aren’t far from the ones I discuss with my twenty-something friends (other than a deadly illness). Potter’s satire is a shrewd diagnosis of our times.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: “Eyes Wide Open” by Frederic Rapheal is a unique insight in the work of the genius filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and unforgettable example of how to adapt a novel from the 1920s in to the present.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I want to feel the pulse of cinema and film, join passionate discussions with cinephiles from all over the world, and carry these new ideas into my own writing for new outlets and the ones I’ve been writing for from before.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? Since my studies in Gender Studies I’m used to take a close look on the representation of genders in culture. I try not to overstate the ongoing inequalities in my judgment, rather focus on the small deviations and renewals. Since I believe that in culture as mirror to society change becomes earlier visible than elsewhere. I adding these shifting details to my stories, I believe I can make them not only more precise and entertaining but also add a pinch of optimism.
Name: Marleen Fitterer
Twitter handle: @marleen_fit
Home: Zurich, Switzerland.
Cinematic area of expertise: I don’t want to qualify myself as an expert but instead as a very interested character in documentary, film noir, thriller, as well as in movies especially from Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Rodriguez and Claire Denis. All kind of movies that step out of line or shock the conventional appreciation of filmmaking.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: “Europe She Loves” (Jan Gassmann), “Victoria” (Sebastian Schipper).
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: The writing of Gilles Deleuze or Jean-Luc Nancy.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I am more of a beginner then a mature expert but with a high interest to learn more about the critics of film and everything that surrounds it. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to attend as part of an academy like that, to learn from other young writers and leading figures, make new contacts and experience a film festival from this special perspective.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? With a background in Media and Cultural Studies, I have several research skills which could be helpful in investigation, observations, and interviews as well as academic and theoretical knowledge through several film seminars.
Name: Max Wild
Twitter handle: @maxswild
Home: Zurich, Switzerland
Cinematic area of expertise: Well, I would call it rather a growing interest than an expertise, but I have always enjoyed Latin American movies and their understanding of filmmaking. Alejandro González Iñárritu with “Amores Perros” or “Biutiful” played a huge part in that.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: I am biased…the most entertaining movie I’ve seen this year was “T2: Trainspotting.” The same cast, along with Danny Boyle directing again just did it for me.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: I enjoyed reading Pam Cook’s “The Cinema Book.” The various perspectives and topics were enlightening.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I would consider myself a movie-enthusiast with little experience as a critic. And that is what I am here for. Apart from enjoying the festival and watching movies I am eager to learn from my colleagues and meet new people surrounding the movie industry. The Critics Academy offers a chance to put my interest into practice, and I am excited to take advantage of the opportunity.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? As I mentioned before, I am quite inexperienced. But I embrace that. Maybe my naïve and unbiased point of view can help me get a different perspective on things.
Name: Francisco Noronha
Home: Porto, Portugal
Cinematic area of expertise: I don’t really have a specific area of expertise, but I would say European cinema, especially French and Italian movies from the 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s are the one that interest me the most. Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of movies from classic Hollywood, mainly from the decade of the 1930s.
Best movie in 2017: Impossible question to answer, but I would say… “Paterson” by Jim Jarmusch.
Favorite book about film: I have several books I love about cinema, but I would mention one that, aside of not being exactly about cinema, was one of the most important for me to learn how to comprehend images: “Mythologies”, by Roland Barthes.
I am taking part in Locarno critics academy because… It’s a great chance to meet and learn with people who love to think about moving images all the time. People who love dark rooms and ghosts.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world film criticism: I’m not the best person to answer this one, but one of my favourite approach is to focus on a very small detail of a film and try to comprehend it alone and then to bring new interpretations to the whole film from it. A very French thing, I suppose.
Name: Adrien Kuenzy
Home: Lausanne, Switzerland
Cinematic area of expertise: The actor’s performance theories, Scandinavian cinema, the filmographies of Robert Bresson and John Cassavetes.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: “The Other Side of Hope” by Aki Kaurismäki. And an old movie: “Il Posto” by Ermanno Olmi, which I saw at my favorite movie theater in Paris: “Il Champo.”
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: “Notes On The Cinematograph” by Robert Bresson.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’m sincerely attached to this film festival. My father brought me there at a young age and I also had the chance to show my short movie in 2010 in the pardo di domani section. Now I have the opportunity to practice another thing I love: writing about movies, in a context that gives us the chance to understand the world of criticism in a wider perspective. Plus, the place is perfect to share friendships and passion.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I would like to write texts that really extend the power of the film, through analysis that would reveal dialogues and contradictions between images and sounds. As the other parts of the movie (image, sound, editing, etc.), I also think that the actor’s performance has the power to break the general rhythm of a movie, giving the opportunity to the spectator to build new links between all the elements.
Name: Dominic Schmid
Twitter handle: @eustache1883. My blog with my collected reviews and texts is at dominicschmid.wordpress.com. Most (but not all) is in German.
Home: Biel, Switzerland
Cinematic area of expertise: Having done a BA in Japanese Studies, I have during my film studies tried to focus on Asian and especially Japanese Cinema. I’m interested in all forms of film though, from all kinds of genre cinema to classical arthouse to experimental and transgressive film.
Best movie you’ve seen in 2017: I really liked Kim Jee-woon’s Korean resistance thriller “The Age of Shadows.” And I was blown away by Zulawski’s “On the Silver Globe,” which was shown during the Berlinale retrospective in a restored version.
Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: I’m interested in intersections between film and other areas of thought, especially philosophy. So of course there are Deleuze’s “Cinema books,” as well as Stanley Cavell’s “Cities of Words.” My favorite working film critic would be Walter Chaw from Filmfreakcentral.net.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’ve been coming to Locarno Film Festival for 15 years and it has always been my favorite time of the year. I hope to to improve on and expand my writing about film professionally, and I look very much forward to the special working environment the Critics Academy provides, as well as interesting new contacts in the film journalism world.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I am a firm believer in the idea that films matter, be they (supposedly) shallow genre exercise or deeply philosophical or political treatise. I’m interested in the ways not only in which reality shapes specific films, but also in which films shape reality. In my writing I’m usually trying to approach a film less from a judgemental perspective than from a desire to understand where it is coming from, as well as to translate in some way its poetic workings into language. Also, of course, I always hope to motivate as many people as possible to watch lesser known or difficult films.