Locarno Film Festival honors Chinese auteur

ROME — Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke will be feted by the Locarno Film Festival with a Leopard of Honor, marking the first time such a young director has received the prominent indie Swiss fest’s career nod.

Zhangke, who is 40, is well-known on the international circuit as a leading member of China’s so-called “sixth generation” of helmers, who make gritty pics about contempo China, often without state funding.

His first three works, “Pickpocket,” “Platform” and “Unknown Pleasures” were not released in China, but unspooled in Berlin, Venice and Cannes respectively.

Zhangke’s “Still Life,” about the social consequences of the construction of China’s giant Three Gorges Dam, took the Venice Golden Lion in 2006.

“We are proud to pay homage to the immense talent of Jia Zhangke, a gripping auteur who, film after film, with great aesthetic rigor and an innate sense of time and space, gives us a unique outlook on China’s deep changes,” said Locarno artistic topper Olivier Pere.

Locarno on Aug. 6 will screen Zhangke’s “Platform,” about a group of young theater and dance performers during China’s 1980s cultural shift, in its 7,000-seat outdoor Piazza Grande, followed by his latest docu “I Wish I Knew,” which recently unspooled in Cannes. Zhangke will also hold a masterclass at the fest.

Past Leopard of Honor winners include Manoel de Oliveira, Chen Kaige, Ken Loach and William Friedkin.

The fest’s 63rd edition will run Aug. 4-14.

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