Fest Traveler: Locarno Film Festival 2012

Staying true to Locarno’s radical roots in his third year, fest topper Olivier Pere is boosting the event’s profile and hitting his stride by ambitiously striving to attain a focus many other sprocket operas lack while using the event to showcase contempo auteur cinema in its various permutations.

Per Pere, the challenge for Locarno is to strike a balance “between representing film in its different forms, from the most radical to the most accessible” in a selection that is at the same time “open, genererous, welcoming and convinced of its choices.”

After reconfiguring the discovery-oriented 64-year-old Swiss fest by making it leaner in his first year, then building the rapport that strengthened U.S. ties the following year, Pere is now making Locarno more well-rounded, sharpening the scope of his official selection while also introducing a “Histoire(s) du cinema” section (named after the cult Jean-Luc Godard project) focused on restored classics and fresh docus about cinema greats.

Intense networking paid off, Pere says, helping him to assemble a lineup with a very specific vision about new auteur cinema. American pics feature prominently, accounting for an unprecedented six titles among the 19 entries in the main competition (13 of which are world premieres).

The Yank contingent comprises the European bows of Craig Zobel’s Sundance thriller “Compliance” and Sean Baker’s “Starlet,” which debuted at SXSW, as well as world preems of avant-garde helmer Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours,” a U.S.-Austria co-prod set in Vienna, and of “Leviathan,” a docu shot on a dozen cameras passed from fishermen to filmmakers Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor in the waters where Melville set part of Moby Dick. “Leviathan” flies the U.S., U.K. and Gallic flags.

In Critics’ Week, AFI grad Thymaya Payne’s self-financed “Stolen Seas” offers a revealing — and potentially dangerous — inside look at Somali piracy. Latin America is also robustly represented by entries such as Mexican helmer Nicolas Pereda’s “Greatest Hits.”

Pere, who formerly oversaw Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, notes that there is only one Gallic pic competing in the 65th edition, Jean-Claude Brisseau’s “The Girl From Nowhere,” and no Romanian or German entries amid slightly slimmer European showings.

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