Art and Experience: A jury that included high profile directors Olivier Assayas and Miguel Gomes has awarded Wang Bing’s unblinkered documentary “Mrs. Fang” the Golden Leopard at the 70th anniversary edition of the Locarno Festival, which will end Saturday night, Aug. 12. In keeping with the director’s usual stripped down, uncompromising style, the film focuses on the death of a woman with Alzheimer’s in an impoverished corner of China. The Special Jury Prize has gone to Brazil’s “Good Manners,” a werewolf story with lesbian overtones directed by Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, while best director was awarded to veteran filmmaker F.J. Ossang for “9 Fingers.”
Rounding out the prizes in the international competition were best actress to Isabelle Huppert for Serge Bozon’s ironic comedy “Madame Hyde,” and best actress to Elliott Crosset Hove for Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason’s debut, “Winter Brothers.”
In the Cinema of the Present, Locarno’s section meant to highlight new voices and trends in the field, the top prize (worth approximately $41,600) went to Bulgarian-German coproduction “3/4,” the first feature by Ilian Metev following his highly-regarded documentary “Sofia’s Last Ambulance.” The jury, headed by Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah, has given the Special Jury Prize to the French-Portuguese coproduction “Milla,” directed by Valerie Massadian, and the best new director award to South Korea’s Dae-hwan Kim for “The First Lap.”
The Variety Piazza Grande Award, selected by this magazine’s attending critics for the film that best combines artistic achievements with commercial potential, has been won by Jan Zabeil’s “Three Peaks,” a German-Italian family drama set in the mountains of Italy’s Alto Adige region.
Rounding out the main prizes, the Dominican Republic’s “Cocote,” directed by Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, won the top prize in the Signs of Life sidebar, a section “investigating experimental forms of narration and innovations in film language.” The Swatch-sponsored First Feature prize is given to the Georgian drama “Scary Mother” by Ana Urushadze, and the top Critics Week award went to Slovenia’s “The Family,” directed by Rok Biček.
Industry events were once again a strong suit of this year’s festival, from the StepIn Forum discussing trends in the field, to the Open Doors co-production forum, this year highlighting projects from South Asia, and the First Look showcase for films in post-production, focusing on Baltic cinema. Media buzz was generated by the lifetime achievement award to Todd Haynes, and the Raimondo Rezzonico Prize for producers, which went to Michel Merkt, whose impressive line-up of films from the past three years has made him a real stand-out.
The festival’s 70th anniversary prompted the organizers to ask a host of industry players – actors, directors, producers, programmers, etc. – to make a short film of no more than 70 seconds, based on the idea “The Movie of My Life.” Favorites were screened in the Piazza Grande before the features as well as at all press screenings, and prizes were given out for the best contributions. The festival closes with the world premiere screening of Kevin Merz’s “Gotthard – One Life, One Soul,” a documentary about the Swiss hard rock band Gotthard.