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LOCARNO 2021

Giona A. Nazzaro • Artistic Director, Locarno Film Festival

“I can say without any hesitation that directing a festival is a real team effort”

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- We chatted with Giona A Nazzaro who spoke with enthusiasm about her recent appointment as Artistic Director of the Locarno Film Festival

Giona A. Nazzaro  • Artistic Director, Locarno Film Festival
(© Locarno Film Festival)

We chatted with Giona A Nazzaro who spoke with enthusiasm about his recent appointment as Artistic Director of the Locarno Film Festival, the challenges he will have to face and, most importantly, his passion for film.

Cineuropa: What does it mean to you to be appointed to the head of the Locarno Film Festival?
Giona A Nazzaro: The truth is, I didn’t just dream about becoming a festival director, I dreamt specifically about directing the Locarno Film Festival. That was the festival I wanted to work on. When I started to collaborate professionally with the Locarno Festival in 2009, I discovered a festival that was different from the others, one which operated on different levels: local, regional, national and international; a festival which could take a town and turn it into a film town, a festival capable of accommodating a range of audiences who could come together and share their love of cinema.

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To take on this prestigious role is first and foremost a great privilege, but it’s also a huge responsibility. I’d like to use this interview to stress that I’m not alone in this challenge; the team I have behind me is the most highly motivated, coherent and professional one I’ve ever come across. I can tell you without any hesitation that directing a festival is a real team effort, which I hope I can do justice to, maybe bringing my own individual touch and vision to the event, in the same way as those artistic directors who have come before me, adding to the richness and diversity of the Locarno Film Festival’s story.

What “personal touch” do you hope to bring to the Locarno Film Festival?
All the things that were achieved by Venice’s Critics’ Week over the past five years offer quite a good benchmark, which we can use as a starting point. I don’t want to replicate that particular model; I want to use it as a benchmark. Furthermore, each festival has its own, distinctive editorial line. The Locarno Film Festival’s mission is to support emerging, young, auteur cinema. And this, without ever compromising on its popular, democratic vocation as a grand event, open to the city. The Locarno Film Festival has a soul made up of many parts and it embraces all different expressions of films.

Marco Solari has stressed the Locarno Film Festival’s desire to keep on tackling the challenges of the digital world. How do you plan to do this, in concrete terms?
I don’t know why but when we talk about the digital world, we imagine something that’s yet to come, and yet we’re already totally immersed in the digital world. Our smartphones, tablets and laptops allow us to work while travelling and we’re already thinking in digital terms when we use emojis to express our feelings. Marshall McLuhan would say that sending a laughing face to express happiness is a form of linguistic syncretism which takes place through the reinvention of the rhetoric of the moving images of film, using a sort of modern hieroglyphic. This line of thought, which seems incredibly complicated when you hear all these big words, is itself an example of digital thinking. We can already testify to the co-existence of our horizontal memory of the history of film, as we pass it on, and a vertical interactivity, of sorts, which we’ve been automatically assimilating for over 40 years via our domestic electronic devices. Digital innovation simply means following the flow of things because, whether we like it or not, we’re part of it. In fact, the digital world has made our lives easier and more linear. Going back to the Locarno Film Festival, it’s about facilitating access to incredibly complex structures and bringing them within reach of as wide an audience as possible, which is something the Festival already does.

As well as being an expert on the seventh art, you’re also a passionate cinephile. Which directors made you fall in love with film?
What really made me fall in love with film was the cinema auditorium itself. Even now I get excited when I go into one, as if it were the first time all over again. I have a background in popular film, I went to the cinema to see anything and everything, I was an omnivore. Cinemas were a place where you could find yourself. Obviously, the films themselves were also important, but the cinema played the starring role. Later, when my tastes became a bit more refined, I moved slightly away from my barbaric, adolescent, “cinephage”-style love. There have been directors that I’ve fallen in love with and who I still have huge love for today. The first is Roberto Rossellini who is, in my opinion, the greatest director of all time; he’s the one who “invented cinema” and TV and, above all, he bridged the divide between cinema and TV. Even now, Journey to Italy is still my favourite film. That said, I also adore John Ford: nobody shoots men and mountains like he does; Howard Hawks (nobody thinks in the rational way that he does), Vincente Minelli (nobody films the workings of the unconscious like he does) and Jean-Luc Godard (no-one has managed to create what he has created through images). Every film has changed my perception of the world. I could go on for hours telling you what I like about cinema, the films which have moved me… There are those I saw as a child on TV which I’ve never forgotten, such as The Band of Angels by Raoul Walsh or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Sergio Leone, but also L’angelo bianco by Raffaello Matarazzo, A Flame in my Heart by Alain Tanner, a film which left a huge impression on me, and Yousry Nasrallah’s masterpiece La porte du soleil. For me, cinema is about far more than the sum of its film-parts and the people who created them. It’s something that I love with a real visceral passion.

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(Translated from Italian)

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