5 ½ hour film dominates awards at Locarno

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Sep 1st, 2014

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From What is Before, a 338-minute film by Filipino director Lav Diaz, has won the Golden Leopard, grand prize of the 67th Locarno Film Festival. The moody and atmospheric black-and-white film depicts rising levels of fear, violence and suspicion in a small village, reflecting the widespread impact of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime, which imposed martial law in the 1970s. The film also took three prizes from the festival’s independent juries, including the FIPRESCI award.

Pedro Costa won Best Director for Cavalo Dinheiro, another film of intense visual beauty, set in the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa. The film examines collective memory through the figure of an elderly man who wanders through hospital corridors, abandoned streets and ruined factories, in limbo between past and present, and under the ominous surveillance of the military.

Best Actress went to Ariane Labed, who made her screen breakthrough just four years ago in Greek film Attenberg. At Locarno, she won the award for playing the only female sailor on board a cargo ship in Fidelio: l’Odyssée d’Alice, highly original debut feature of French director Lucie Borleteau. Labed also starred in Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić’s wild summer comedy Love Island, one of Locarno’s famous open-air screenings for 8,000 people in the town’s Piazza Grande.

Artem Bystrov, in his second-ever film appearance, won Best Actor for his leading role in The Fool, director Yury Bykov’s uncompromising indictment of corruption in Russia. Bystrov played Dima Nitkin, a simple plumber who discovers two enormous cracks in the walls of a social housing block, and has just 24 hours to persuade local officials to evacuate the building before it collapses.

The festival also gave special prizes to several film veterans including actresses Juliette Binoche and Mia Farrow, and French New Wave director and documentarian Agnès Varda, all in attendance to receive their awards. Actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, star of French New Wave classic The 400 Blows, as well as Spanish director Victor Erice accepted Leopard Awards in recognition of their illustrious careers. Roman Polanski was also due to attend the festival to receive a special award and present his latest film, Venus in Furs, but the director cancelled at the last minute following protests, a move which attracted the attention of media across the globe. It was a setback for the festival’s artistic director Carlo Chatrian who said in a press release that ‘the idea of the Festival as a meeting and debating place today receives a big blow’.

Set on the shores of Lake Maggiore at the base of the Alps, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, the Locarno Film Festival is among the world’s oldest, and is classed among the most important on the international circuit.

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