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“European film is trying to reprogramme itself”

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Carlo Chatrian • Director, Locarno Film Festival

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- Carlo Chatrian, director of the Locarno Film Festival, guides us through this year’s edition

Carlo Chatrian  • Director, Locarno Film Festival
(© Festival del Film Locarno)

Carlo Chatrian started working with the Locarno Film Festival in 2002, and from 2006 to 2009, he was part of the selection committee. He’s also organised the festival’s retrospectives of recent years (Nanni Moretti, Manga Impact, Ernst Lubitsch, Vincente Minnelli, Otto Preminger). Since 2013 he has been the artistic director of the prestigious Swiss event, which this year celebrates its 70th edition (from 2 to 12 August). It will feature 130 unreleased titles with a mix of feature films and shorts, 18 of which will compete in the international competition and be judged by a jury chaired by French director Olivier Assayas.

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Cineuropa: Was there any common criteria for selecting the films for the 2017 edition?
Carlo Chatrian: This year, there did seem to be one thing in common between a lot of the films that question or challenge the male identity: male protagonists who behave in a provocative way. I’m thinking in particular of Danish film Winter Brothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
, the debut piece by Hlynur Pálmason, the protagonist of which is one of those people who are generally considered unpleasant, and whose negativity eventually brings out a more human side. Or Romanian film Charleston [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Andrei Creţulescu
film profile
]
by Andrei Crețulescu, another debut film in competition, the protagonists of which are two very different men who are brought together by the disappearance of a woman who is dear to both, first with their fists and then by finding common ground on which they can start to grieve. Then there’s the Swiss film being shown in competition, Goliath [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dominik Locher
film profile
]
by Dominik Locher, in which a young man becomes afraid upon becoming a father and, wanting to physically protect his family, enters the body-building world with a series of somewhat unpleasant consequences.

And in terms of types of films?
There’s a strong documentary presence this year, with some films that were perhaps made by American directors, but produced entirely in Europe, like Ben Russell’s film on Serbian miners, Good Luck [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, or Mrs Fang [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which covers the last few months of the life of a 67-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s, made by a Chinese director, Wang Bing, produced by France and Germany. They’re very engaged documentaries, which is clear to see looking at the Filmmakers of the Present section, which is full of films with another possible guiding thread: lots of them attempt to explore the present day. Not only the issue of migration, but war itself is present in a number of the films, and I’m thinking in particular of two films that make a nice counterpoint: Stéphane Breton’s documentary Filles du feu, about Kurdish women, not those who fight Daesh, and the film of a young director fresh out of school in Austria, Matthias Krepp, who, with Angelika Spangel, made Sand and Blood, which tells the story of the rise of Daesh through the voices of the protagonists.

Do you think an international festival like Locarno can tell us a lot about the state of health of European film, beyond its distribution issues?
On the one hand, running a festival gives you a 360° view. On the other hand, and above all right now, when we’ve only just selected the films, it’s difficult to be objective. Every film chosen is the fruit of passion, and I wouldn’t say that film is showing signs of tiredness, but is actually trying to reprogramme itself. The issue of reception by audiences is another matter. But in trying to gauge the vitality of film, I think there are a number of positive indicators.

In Italy we’ve been experiencing a golden moment for documentary film that’s given us cause to hope for increased admission figures.
Generalisations can be double-edged swords. On the one hand they help to identify trends, and on the other, they overly simplify things. Success in theatres is always down to the films themselves, how they’re marketed, and some films lend themselves to marketing more easily. I think there’s potential in documentary film. For example, films like Anatomia del miracolo [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which is by an unknown director, Alessandra Celesia, but broaches extremely powerful human subject matter: the film ends with a girl in a wheelchair singing “Vivere” by Vasco Rossi. It’s a scene that stokes a fire inside you, and when we saw it it left an impression. Obviously the difficulty lies in getting these films into theatres and marketing them properly, which is why investment is so important. Investment isn’t always a part of the producer or distributor’s strategy.

(Translated from Italian)

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