Low-budget pic wins fest's top prize

Surprise winner of the Golden Leopard at the 62nd Locarno Film Festival was “She, a Chinese,” by China-born, U.K.-based Xiaolu Guo.

Low-budget pic about a young Mainland woman’s glum life in central China and London took home a festival prize of 90,000 Swiss francs ($83,600), divided equally between helmer Guo and producer Natasha Dack, at the closing-night gala on Saturday.

Special jury prize went to Russian love story “Buben. Baraban,” set in a depressed mining town. Third feature by Alexei Mizgirev also copped best director prize.

Low-budget two-hander “Nothing Personal,” generally regarded as the most interesting world preem in the main competition, won Lotte Verbeek the best actress award. Dutch production, helmed by Polish first-timer Urszula Antoniak, and shot in English in Ireland with actor Stephen Rea, also nabbed kudos from the Fipresci international critics’ org and best first feature juries.

The seven-member international competition jury, which included U.S.-Brazilian director Jonathan Nossiter, South Korean helmer Hong Sang-soo and German thesp Nina Hoss, awarded Antonis Kafetzopoulos best actor for Greek slacker laffer “Plato’s Academy.”

In the Piazza Grande open-air screenings, the audience award went to Swiss ensembler “Julia’s Disappearance,” by Christoph Schaub.

The Variety Piazza Grande award, given by the paper’s attending crix for the best world or international preem combining artistic and commercial smarts, went to German drama “Same Same But Different,” by Detlev Buck, based on a real-life love story between a young German man and an HIV-positive Cambodian woman.

Fest as a whole, and especially the International Competition and Piazza Grande, was by common assent the most lackluster lineup for many years — 10 days of “independent” cinema dominated by miserabilism, alienation, anomie and gloom.

The event was the fourth and last under artistic director Frederic Maire, who segues next month to the top spot at the Swiss Film Archive. Incoming director Olivier Pere, former head of Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, takes over Sept. 1, with a five-year contract.

Paris-based Pere, who was in Locarno to observe and hold private meetings, is expected to appoint a new programming team and radically streamline the self-absorbed, high-art event, which has been slowly losing international relevance for at least the past decade.

INTL. COMPETITION

Golden Leopard:
“She, a Chinese” (U.K.).

Special Jury Prize:
“Buben. Baraban” (Russia).

Best Director:
Alexei Mizgirev (“Buben. Baraban”).

Best Actress:
Lotte Verbeek (“Nothing Personal”).

Best Actor:
Antonis Kafetzopoulos (“Plato’s Acadamy”).

FILMMAKERS OF THE PRESENT COMPETITION

Golden Leopard:
“The Anchorage” (U.S.-Sweden).

Jury Prize:
“Cast Lead” (Italy).

OTHER MAIN AWARDS

Best First Feature:
“Nothing Personal.”

Best Short (Leopards of Tomorrow):
“Believe” (U.K.).

Audience Award:
“Julia’s Disappearance” (Switzerland).

Variety Piazza Grande Award:
“Same Same But Different” (Germany).

Fipresci Award:
“Nothing Personal.”

Netpac Award (best Asian feature):
“At the End of Daybreak” (Malaysia)

Special mention:
“One Night in Supermarket” (China)

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