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Locarno Critics Academy 2018: Meet This Year’s Aspiring Film Critics

The annual workshop for aspiring film critics finds them writing about the program at the Locarno Film Festival.

Chairs are placed in front of a big screen on the Piazza Grande square one day before the beginning of the 71st Locarno International Film Festival, in Locarno, Switzerland, 31 July 2018. The Festival del film Locarno 2018 runs from 01 to 11 August.71st Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland - 31 Jul 2018

Chairs are placed in front of a big screen on the Piazza Grande square one day before the beginning of the 71st Locarno International Film Festival, in Locarno, Switzerland,

ALEXANDRA WEY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Since 2012, IndieWire has lent its support to the Locarno Critics Academy, a workshop developed as part of the Summer Academy initiative at the Locarno Film Festival designed to foster aspiring film critics. This year’s participants will contribute essays on the 71st edition of the festival, currently underway in Switzerland. Here’s an overview of their backgrounds and interests.

Name: Pedro Emilio Segura Bernal

Age: 28

Twitter Handle: @PedroEmilioSB / @LaOlaCine

Home: Mexico City

Cinematic Area of Expertise: I can’t say I have expertise in anything… I can confess certain predilection for “non-traditional” narratives.

Best You’ve Seen in 2018: “Le Livre d’Image” (“The Image Book”) – JLG

image book godard

“The Image Book”

Wild Bunch

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: It’s a tie between Mariano Llinas’ “La Flor” and “Gangbyeon Hotel” by Hong Sang Soo

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: The poem-essay used and composed by Godard as a “script” for “Histoire(s) du Cinéma.” And as this survey is part of a film criticism program, I would like to choose as well “Qu’est-ce que le Cinéma?” (“What is Cinema?”) by André Bazin.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because…  To improve myself as a film critic… and maybe to improve something or someone else, too.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? Good question. I guess my contribution would be to constantly “question the image.” And that in my multidisciplinary way of working, I always intend to expand myself as well as the panorama of film.

 

Name: Daniel Witkin

Age: 27

Twitter Handle:  @dzwitkin

Home: New York, USA

Cinematic area of expertise: Film comedy, the cinema of Russia and the former Soviet Union

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: I’ve found myself returning to Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” and Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still.” Something about these films centered on public disintegration and private despair seems to complement the moment.

“First Reformed”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: I’m an admirer of both Fernando Pessoa and Eugéne Green, so the latter’s “How Fernando Pessoa Saved Portugal” has piqued my interest.

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: I just read Gilberto Perez’s marvelous “The Material Ghost,” which I can tell is something I’ll be thinking about for a while. In line with Perez’s predilection for working in the space between ostensibly contradictory poles, it’s one of the most successful unions of theory and close reading that I’ve encountered. I also have a soft spot for Jerry Lewis’s “The Total Filmmaker,” a book both as generous and as catty as its author.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I am coming here to make friends.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I’m not sure that I could define a fixed perspective from which I operate. I see myself as employing a revolving array of writerly and critical means to open up multiple paths – aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, and political – through which a reader hopefully can enter into an experience of a work.

 

Name: Flavia Dima

Age: 24

Twitter Handle:  None, but if you want to see what silly pictures I take with my phone. Follow me at @flvd on Instagram.

Home: Bucharest, Romania.

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Romanian Cinema, Arthouse Cinema.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: “Touch Me Not,” by Adina Pintilie. Saw it twice and had completely different reactions, observations and takeaways at both screenings, while also  having some very distinctive personal revelations. (Gasp! Is a film critic even allowed to admit this?!)

Touch Me Not

“Touch Me Not”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: “Hotel by The River,” by Hong Sangsoo and “BlacKkKlansman,” by Spike Lee.

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: You can’t really top Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” honestly. (Although many ulterior critiques of her theories are very much valid, it does set an important blueprint.) And even though they are not pieces on cinema, Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” and Bertolt Brecht’s “Short Organum for the Theatre” were also very influential reads.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… Well, I finally got in after being rejected three times, so I’m very excited to finally participate! I’ve always seen the Critics Academy as a chance to work directly for some of the most important publications and outlets in the global film industry, under the supervision of some of the most famous editors and critics from across the world. It’s a unique and invaluable opportunity, which enables participants not just to improve their skills and their knowledge, but also to go about practicing their craft in an environment which is very similar to the real deal, rather than being an insular and somewhat observational experience, like in other festival-based workshops.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? This is a pretty tough question, since while I take my writing and film criticism seriously, I tend to not take myself seriously. Judging by what others have said in the past in regards to my activity, the strong point in my writing is my apprehension of politics (from political themes and undertones to “la politique des auteurs”). This is probably due to my background in journalism and media theory, along with some attempts at local activism. Also, my MA in visual and cultural studies really opened up my appetite for an angle very much rooted in gender studies, adaptation studies and cognitive/phenomenological theory, ramping up my taste for both non-narrative cinema and literary adaptations. I’m also an avowed feminist, so I guess you already know what that’s supposed to mean.

 

Name: Becca Voelcker

Age: 27

Website: www.beccavoelcker.co.uk

Home: I come from Wales and currently study in the US

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Experimental non-fiction film, and various intersections of cinema with artist and ethnographic film.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: The year’s not yet out, I’m still looking! But Ognjen Glavonic’s “Teret” (“The Load”) and Shireen Seno and John Torres’ “Nervous Translation” were both memorable.

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: I’m already anticipating that anything I watch on my birthday, midway through the festival, will be a highlight.

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: “The Evidence of Film” by Jean-Luc Nancy.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… The films I end up loving, and writing about, often premiere at Locarno… I thought it was about time I went myself.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I’m interested in what an interdisciplinary approach can offer film criticism, coming to cinema via fine art and interests in architecture, Japanese, and anthropology. My ambition is to write about film—often a small aspect of a particular film—as a way to talk about something larger. Film is an incredibly rich way of participating in the world, in all its confusion, liveness, urgency and surprise. In my writing, I hope to tap into that.

 

Name: Richard Bolisay

Age: 30

Twitter Handle:  @richardbolisay

Home: The Philippines

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Philippine cinema

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: Hands down, “An Elephant Sitting Still” by the Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo. Tragic that he died before the film was released, and also this being his first film.

“An Elephant Sitting Still”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: Mostly the Asian films in the line-up, and the screening of arguably the greatest Filipino film, Manila in the Claws of Darkness, by Lino Brocka. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: I remember being so fond of François Truffaut’s “The Films in My Life” in my formative years.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’ve heard lots of good things from Filipino filmmakers who have participated in the festival. I’m sure the experience will be one for the books.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I’m not sure about the uniqueness of perspective, but my race and ethnicity, as well as the personal experiences that come with them, are two crucial elements that define not only my writing but also my view of life and art.

 

Name: Marko Miladinovic

Age: 29

Website:  markomiladinovic.ch

Home: Santiago de Ciass, Switzerland

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Pre-eighties Italian cinema.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: “Dogman” by Matteo Garrone

“Dogman”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: “La Flor”

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: Borges-Bertolucci, “The Spider’s Stratagem”

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’m free in this period.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? A little bit of poetry.

 

Name: Sabrina Schwob

Age: 27

Home: Vevey, Switzerland

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Brazilian cinema and Italian cinema.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: “Season of the Devi”l (Lav Diaz) because of the original and unexpected formal aspects the director – particularly the choice to make the film a musical – used to confront the trauma of the Marcos dictatorship inflicted on these villagers.

Gangbyun Hotel hong sangsoo

“Gangbyun Hotel”

Locarno

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: “Gangbyun Hotel” (Hong Sangsoo)

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: Béla Balázs, “Der sichtbare Mensch oder die Kultur des Films”

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because…  I have been writing reviews for two years and I think the best way to improve myself would be to share this experience with other people from this field and also get feedback about my texts.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I really try when I watch a movie to start the reflection from the way I feel, what I appreciate or not in an image, a sequence, and how this feeling can be linked to formal aspects of the movie. Also, I am very sensitive to the dialogue between a single film and its interaction with a genre or with a restriction stemming from the period of production (for example, a classical Hollywood movie).

 

Name: Silvia Posavec

Age: 34

Website: silviaposavec.ch

Home: I consider myself an urban nomad. But I am paying taxes in Zürich, Switzerland.

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Documentary and Media Art

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: There are no best, just different movies. But if I had to choose I’d say … “Mary Magdalene,” by Garth Davis. Just kidding. It just occurred to me that there is a definite category of the worst movies I have seen in 2018.

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: Oh, too many. “Dani ludila,” a Croatian documentary, for example, and “Wintermärchen.”

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: “Transcendental Style in Film” by Paul Schrader

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I love films and have strong feelings and opinions about them.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I have a heart for underdogs.

 

Name: Katja Zellweger

Age: 31

Home: Berne, Switzerland

Cinematic Area of Expertise: I can bring myself to watch and be enthusiastic about a lot of different cinematic formats, be it documentaries or independent films. As long as they are intriguingly narrated or show some interest in authentic dialogues and plots… or handle dystopian and symbolically ripe topics. If there would be a geographical area of expertise it might be South American and European films. But whatever unknown place the movie takes me, I want to go there.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: None except “A Fantastic Woman,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. I saw it projected on a wrinkled linen with horrible sound at a village festival on the island Chiloe in Chile. I was travelling there through to the end of June. Also I can finally cross off my “to-view list,” the movie “The Yes Men Fix the World,” a very inspiring auto-documentary about two performance artists who do very interesting and revealing pranks on politicians and multinational firms.

"A Fantastic Woman"

“A Fantastic Woman”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: Difficult, there are so many. Maybe the mammoth project “La Flor.” I am going to spend more than half a day watching those four splendid Argentinian theater actresses perform, so I hope it is going to be worth it. Otherwise I’m really hooked by the story about incest (“Glaubenberg”) but I also want to try out more experimental films such as the short film about humorous voice casting, “Hi, I Need to be Loved.” The makers aim to read aloud the Google-translated spam mails that try to sell love to everyone every day.

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: Hard to say. Recently, I read a very interesting interview titled “No Rules, Many Doubts,” with the two documentary filmmakers — Luc Schaedler and Kaleo La Belle — about ethics.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I can! And mostly because I like how one can profit, read, write, and learn loads in such an inspiring and intense environment.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? Since the last three years I mostly worked in and therefore saw theatre plays. I enjoy observing parallel narrative structures and their possibilities. Since movies are able to focus more on character development and insights I am happy to discuss that. I always aim to link what I observe and see with topics of the circumstances of the so-called real world.

 

Name: Dino Pozzi

Age: 26

Home: Zurich, Switzerland

Cinematic Area of Expertise: Spaghetti Westerns and bad Sci-Fi

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: Does the remastered 4K-version of 2001: A Space Odyssey count? If not, probably The Death of Stalin (yeah, that one was JUST released here…)

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: “Sibel” or “Wintermärchen.”

Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film:  Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon” or Roger Ebert’s “Little Movie Glossary.”

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because…  I worked here as a film critic last year and thought it might be a very interesting experience to do that in a different context.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? The inner strength to admit that I haven’t seen THAT movie.

Name: Josh Slater-Williams
Age: 28
Twitter handle: @jslaterwilliams
Home: Kent, UK
Cinematic Area of Expertise: This is actually something I’d like to determine via the Critics Academy, if I can. One of my recent worries about my criticism is that I might be a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2018: Sandi Tan’s “Shirkers” when it comes to 2018 premieres. The best film I’ve seen for the first time this year is Susan Seidelman’s “Smithereens.”
Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing At Locarno: I’m hoping to attend as much of the Leo McCarey retrospective as possible, depending on how the rest of my schedule and commitments pan out.
Favorite Book or Piece of Writing About Film: In terms of recent favorite pieces, I thought Violet Lucca’s tribute to the late Isao Takahata for Film Comment was beautiful.
I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… Although I have been fortunate enough to achieve a few high-profile writing gigs with some respected outlets, my not living within the UK’s central film and journalism hub of London has meant I’ve faced some challenges with aspects of the field like networking, particularly with international industry professionals. The practical applications of the Critics Academy will be an invaluable asset in my development and I will take full advantage of what’s on offer as someone who recognizes that it is a life-changing opportunity. I’m honored to have been selected and look forward to meeting new people, sharing experiences, discovering new things and learning as much as I can.
What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? My passion lies with engaging audiences regarding the power of the moving image. I think it would be best for someone other than myself to judge whether or not I am unique, but I feel that I work a fine balance between writing about what people may already know and getting across new ideas, new points of view; not writing about the same film with the same sort of rigid guidelines. At the same time, with the ways in which I articulate my emotional responses to films, I do not posit my views as inherently superior, even with my injections of wit. I simply want to be informed, to be enlightened. Through my words, I wish to help other people achieve the same.

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