A guest post from Mico Tatalovic, in Locarno, Switzerland.
Strolling through the narrow streets of Locarno, a picturesque lake-side town surrounded by the Alps, on the way to screenings, one feels the buzz and quaintness that come with the festival’s prestige and location – but, perhaps unexpectedly, one also gets a lot of negative vibe that comes from what appear to be frequent hitches in the festival’s organisation.
It was during an over-long wait – packed like commuters in a long queue in a hallway without air conditioning – and in between the viewers’ booing and shouting ‘let us in’ in Italian, that I overheard a US film distributor complaining about the poor selection of shorts here. She was in the same screening as me, seeing one of the ‘Pardi di domani’ (Leopards of tomorrow) screenings of talented upcoming directors’ short and medium-length films split into two streams: international and Swiss.
To me, the selection seems fairly solid, though not many films so far stand out.
One that does is a US production, by Rachel McDonald, called ‘Thirst’ (2014) and featuring Melanie Griffith, whose appearance helped the movie get quite a bit of press already. The storyline of a young person failing to make it in the big city and losing the will to live is compelling and timeless, though especially relevant in the current period of economic uncertainty. But the ending is perhaps too Biblical and lets the movie down a bit. A joy to watch nevertheless and a prompt to rethink one’s purpose in life.
Another similarly slow-paced gem from Sweden, by Jerry Carlsson, ‘Allt Vi Delar’ (‘All We Share’, 2014) starts with the spooky premise of something bad having happened in a tree in the front garden of someone’s house. An impressionistic window reflection doesn’t give us enough information to know what happened – but something is amiss, we can tell. Two teenagers are involved. A mobile phone keeps ringing without being answered. The music is left on in the bedroom.
When two arborists, Samir and Sara, are hired to cut down the tree they can also tell that something is not right, and there’s a hint of the supernatural as the tree slowly, and not without some effort, starts coming down.
But everyone is as keen as the house owner for the tree to go, and Samir, who is married to another man, shifts his kinship from the tree to a teenage boy who comes along to claim a branch for himself. And the film skillfully shifts from family tragedy to homosexuality in modern-day Sweden, and dealing with feelings of guilt.
‘Sleeping Giant’ (2014) by Canadian director Andrew Cividino is a believable depiction of worries faced by teenagers during a summer vacation on a bay, complete with wonderful shots of crayfish. The grim ending reminds the viewers of the real risk that comes from teenage bravado and resonates with ‘All We Share’.