Locarno light on laurels

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LOCARNO, Switzerland — The main competition jury for the 11-day Locarno Intl. Film Festival doled out gongs to relatively few films on Sunday, lending credence to reports that several members were dissatisfied with the 22-pic lineup and had walked out of some screenings.

Journos at the awards news conference Sunday afternoon booed the controversial winner of the top Golden Leopard (worth $70,000) — British-born, German-raised helmer Iain Dilthey’s ascetic drama “The Longing.” Jury prexy Cedomir Kolar pointedly announced that the prize was “unanimous, except for one vote.”

Two titles copped a pair of awards each: Iranian drama “I’m Taraneh, 15,” about a pregnant teen, won the special jury prize, plus actress kudos for lead Taraneh Allidousti, while B&W Argentinean low-budgeter “Suddenly,” a femme-trio road movie, went away with a Silver Leopard and special mention for its acting ensemble.

Notably absent at the news conference were jury member Bruno Ganz, the Swiss thesp, whose name was not on the final press release, and Magyar helmer Bela Tarr, who returned to Budapest Saturday to prep a new movie, “The Man From London.”

Following last year’s row when juror Debra Winger flounced out of the news conference after growing angry over questions, journos were not allowed to question the remaining jury members, who included Indian actor-director Aamir Khan and Iranian helmer Jafar Panahi.

Competish improved

Despite jury dissatisfaction and journo hooting, the 55th competition — the second under program topper Irene Bignardi — could be considered an improvement on last year, with a raft of strong performances.

Two popular road movies missed out on prizes: the Austrian “Blue Moon” (tipped for Toronto) and French “A Loving Father” (starring Gerard Depardieu and son Guillaume), both of which have arthouse potential. Others that went away empty-handed were Germany’s “Sophiiiie!,” starring Katharina Schuettler; French Alpine drama “The Cage”; and Danish ensemble comedy “Okay.”

Also liked was Greek family drama “Hard Goodbyes” (invited to Chicago), whose 10-year-old lead drew the actor kudos.

The three U.S. entries — “Secretary,” “One Hour Photo” and “Personal Velocity” (all from Sundance) — drew favorable reactions but no awards at the Euro-dominated fest. Locarno continues to struggle to attract American directors and Anglophone stars to the fest — even helmer Neil LaBute was a no-show for his closer, “Possession.”

screenings drew flak, though she told Daily Variety that she intends to stick by her selection criteria. “We probably made a mistake in slotting, and should have started with a bigger bang. But I still want to have only European or world preems,” said the veteran Italian critic.

Fest organizers also faced criticism that their programming had been overly ambitions, with two retrospectives (Indian cinema, plus Hollywood director Allan Dwan), a daily writers’ talk dubbed “In Progress” and a day devoted to Afghan cinema.

e admissions up by 26%.”

Bignardi confirmed that the retro for next year’s fest, the last under her three-year contract, will be devoted to jazz in the cinema.

And the winners are . . .

INTL. COMPETITION

Golden Leopard

“The Longing” (dir. Iain Dilthey; Germany)

Silver Leopard

“Suddenly” (Diego Lerman; Argentina)

Special Jury Prize

“I’m Taraneh, 15” (Rassul Sadr-Ameli; Iran)

Silver Leopard (best first or second feature)

“Pleasant Days” (Kornel Mundruczo; Hungary)

Actress

Taraneh Allidousti (“I’m Taraneh, 15”)

Actor

Yorgos Karayannis (“Hard Goodbyes: My Father”; Greece)

Special Mention

acting ensemble of “Suddenly”

VIDEO COMPETITION

Golden Leopard (ex aequo)

“After the War” (Nobuhiro Suwa, Moon Seong-wook, Wang Xiaoshuai; South Korea) and “Love and Diane” (Jennifer Dworkin; France)

Special Distinction

“For One More Hour With You” (Alina Marazzi; Italy)

OTHER MAIN PRIZES

Golden Leopard (Leopards of Tomorrow)

“Nuit de noces” (Olga Baillif; Switzerland)

Fipresci (intl. critics’ assn.) Prize

“The Cage” (Alain Raoust; France)

Ecumenical Jury Prize

“The Cage”

CICAE/Arte Prize

“Girl” (Dorothee van den Berghe; Belgium-Netherlands-France)

Netpac Jury Prize (ex aequo)

“Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” (Aparna Sen; India), “Crossing Kalandia” (Sobi al-Zobaidi; Palestine); “Our Times” (Rakhshen Bani-Etemad; Iran)

Critics’ Week Prize

“Forget Baghdad-Jews and Arabs-The Iraqi Connection” (Samir; Switzerland-Germany)

Audience Award

“Bend It Like Beckham” (Gurinder Chadha; U.S.-U.K.-Germany)

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