You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Locarno fest mulls Muller’s exit

The hunt is on for new director, prexy

LOCARNO, Switzerland — With the resignation of its director Marco Muller, and the presentation of its top prize to a 4-year-old banned Chinese pic, the 53rd Locarno Intl. Film Festival (Aug. 2-12) rang down the curtain in dramatic style Saturday on one of the most volatile decades in its history, leaving the event at a crossroads.

Muller announced his decision at a press conference called by the fest’s executive committee on the closing afternoon.

With Muller’s departure effective immediately, the Swiss-Italian lakeside fest is temporarily sans a director and a president. New prexy Giuseppe Buffi, a highly regarded local pol, died of a heart attack July 20.

A new president will be announced Sept. 12 and a new director a few weeks later, fest sources told Daily Variety.

Muller, 47, is leaving to pursue a burgeoning career as an associate producer of art pics for Benetton subsid Fabrica.

Despite the effusive regrets published by both sides, fest insiders told Daily Variety that it was time for a change after nine years of Muller’s frequently tempestuous stewardship.

Muller failed in his ambition to turn the well-regarded but basically egghead Euro art movie event into a glitzy fest to rival Venice. The U.S. majors paid polite lip service with a few titles, but A-list stars were consistently thin on the ground. This year, none showed up, with Ethan Hawke (“Hamlet”) canceling.

Veteran festival, with an annual budget of about 5 million Swiss francs ($3 million), is left at a crossroads. Under Buffi’s brief supervision, its deficit this year is expected to be less than half of 1999’s $470,000, but Swiss culture minister Ruth Dreifuss recently hinted that her office’s contribution to the budget would not be increased.

On the artistic side, Muller’s tenure has left the event in a conundrum, with the massive annual retros more interesting than its regular Competition.

Promoted by Muller as the “best lineup of the decade,” this year’s Competition turned out to be only an average one.

Grabbing deserved plaudits, including the competition jury’s top Golden Leopard prize, was surprise pic “Daddy” (Baba), a cheeky, ambitious critique of authority by bad-boy mainland Chinese novelist Wang Shuo.

The film was shot in 1996 but never released; sole English-subtitled print was smuggled out of China and will remain in Switzerland.

Silver Leopards went to Hong Kong director Fruit Chan’s “Little Cheung” (New Cinema) and German ensembler “Manila” (Young Cinema), by Romuald Karmakar. Bronze Leopards, for acting, went to Sabine Timoteo, the feisty young lead of German road movie “L’amour l’argent l’amour” and the trio of male thesps in ironic Austrian thriller “Hold-Up.”

A record 80 buyers, including European reps from Miramax and Fine Line, attended.

A complete list of the festival winners follows:

Main awards:

Golden Leopard: “Daddy” (Wang Shuo, China)

Silver Leopards: “Little Cheung” (Fruit Chan, Hong Kong) (New Cinema); “Manila” (Romuald Karmakar, Germany) (Young Cinema)

Bronze Leopards: actress Sabine Timoteo in “L’amour l’argent l’amour” (Philip Groening, Germany); three male leads in “Hold-Up” (Florian Flicker, Austria)

Special Jury Prize: “Gostanza da Libbiano” (Paolo Benvenuti, Italy)

Special Mentions: “Bronx-Barbes” (Eliane Latour, France); “In Vanda’s Room” (Pedro Costa, Portugal)

Golden Leopard (video competition): “Les yeux fermes” (Olivier Py, France)

Young Jury: “In Vanda’s Room” (first prize); “Daddy” and “The Season of Guavas” (Dang Nhat Minh, Vietnam-France) (second prizes)

Fipresci Award: “Hotaru” (Naomi Kawase, Japan)

Ecumenical Jury: “Daddy”

FICC Jury: “The Season of Guavas”

CICAE Jury: Naomi Kawase (“Hotaru”)

Critics’ Week Jury: “Do It” (Sabine Gisiger, Marcel Zwingli, Switzerland)

Audience Award: “Hollow Man” (Paul Verhoeven, U.S.)

More Film

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. The two titles are the only current bright spots as overall moviegoing for 2019 trails far [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Black Panther Composer

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Scores

    Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land [...]

  • Oscars Best Song Nominees

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Songs

    This year’s crop of Oscar-nominated songs may be the most diverse in years: a ballad and a pop-rap from two of the year’s biggest films, plus a delicate lullaby from a Disney musical, a political themed anthem, and a novelty tune for singing cowboys. “Shallow,” the top-10 hit from “A Star Is Born,” is widely [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    All Oscar Categories to Air Live After Hollywood Protest

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has reversed its controversial decision to hand out four Oscars during the telecast’s commercial breaks. Following a Thursday night meeting with top cinematographers, Academy leadership including president John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson have pledged to air every awards category on the live show a week from [...]

  • Academy Awards preparation 2017

    Cinematographers Hopeful That Academy Will Reverse Oscarcast Exclusions

    Cinematographers who are opposing the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations on the telecast have said a “productive” Thursday night meeting with Academy brass may lead to a reversal of the exclusions. American Society of Cinematographers president Kees van Oostrum said in a letter to members Friday that he expects a decision by the end [...]

  • Oscars: Resistance to the Rescue

    Oscars: Resistance to the Rescue

    When “The Dark Knight” failed to secured a best picture Oscar nomination, the snub was said to have prompted the Academy to expand the category from five nominees to as many as 10. A decade later, maybe out of fear that something similar might happen again to the immensely popular “Black Panther,” the Academy announced [...]

  • Chris Evans attends the "Lobby Hero"

    Chris Evans' Action Film 'The Red Sea Diving Resort' Bought by Netflix

    Netflix has bought global rights, excluding China, to Chris Evans’ action-thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” for release later this year. Haley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michiel Huisman, Greg Kinnear, and Ben Kingsley also star. “The Red Sea Diving Resort” is directed by “Homeland” creator Gideon Raff from his own script. Raff had [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content