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Locarno Film Festival’s New Topper Carlo Chatrian Raises the Stakes

Fest's new artistic director builds on advances established by predecessor Olivier Pere

New Locarno artistic director Carlo Chatrian hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but it’s clear he’s keen on adding luster to the Swiss event with a promisingly diverse lineup for its 66th edition, which sees a greater number of established auteurs unspooling alongside newcomers and crowdpleasers.

Chatrian, 41, has replaced Olivier Pere, a former chief of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. During his three-year stint, Pere revamped the indie event, making it leaner and positioning it as a solid launchpad for edgy arthouse pics.

Taking his cue from his predecessor, the Locarno topper has recruited more known names for the competition, among them prolific South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo, France’s Claire Simon and Brazilian cult veteran Julio Bressane. Concurrently, he’s raising the Piazza Grande profi le, starting with Denzel Washington/Mark Wahlberg vehicle “2 Guns,” which will open the fest Aug. 7 at the 8,000-seat outdoor Piazza Grande with the pic’s Icelandic helmer Baltasar Kormakur in tow. Other crowdpleasers include Richard Curtis-helmed “About Time,” from Universal.

“I am very happy about the positive response we’ve had this year from the majors,” Chatrian says.

Though they are the same age, Chatrian is considered more of a rookie than Pere, having never previously headed a fest, though he was a longtime member of the selection committee at Locarno and other fests, besides being a prominent film critic and author.

Signifi cantly, his first move, once installed, was to fly to Los Angeles and take studio meetings.

Chatrian’s only imperative is making “diversity of the mix my mantra.” He adds, “Today the significance of the notion of being avant-garde has perhaps worn a little thin.”

That said, the venerable fest dedicated to compelling cinema and discoveries has not lost its edge.

Other Piazza Grande titles include the world premieres of Quebecois filmmaker Louise Archambault’s “Gabrielle,” about a mentally challenged young woman eager for romance, and Milan-set noir “The Human Factor” by Bruno Oliviero.

Piazza Grande pics will compete for the Prix du Public and the Variety Piazza Grande Award, given by Variety critics to the fest title that best combines artistic excellence and commercial potential.

The 20-title competition featuring 18 world premieres is distinguished by a strong Asian contingent.

Two entries are from Japan: the world premiere of Locarno regular Shinji Aoyama’s sadistic sex psychodrama “Backwater,” and the international premiere of science-fiction saga “Real,” from prolific director Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Locarno hosts the world premiere of Hong ’s latest drama “Our Sunhi,” a follow-up to his “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon.” From Taiwan comes delicate coming-of ager “A Time in Quchi,” by Chang Tso-chi (“Soul of a Demon”).

European entries competing for the Golden Leopard include Claire Simon’s “Gare du Nord”; Catalan helmer Albert Serra’s “Story of My Death”; and Italian filmmaker Pippo Delbono’s drama “Sangue,” partly shot with an iPhone. U.K. helmer Joanna Hogg is world-premiering her feature “Exhibition.”

The U.S. is represented by South by Southwest winner “Short Term 12,” from Destin Cretton.

The more cutting-edge Cineastes of the Present consists of mostly first works (14 of 16 entries), including Matt Johnson’s Slamdance standout “The Dirties,” about school bullies.

The section has a distinct identity as one for discoveries. “It was important for me to really differentiate the main competition from the Cineastes of the Present,” Chatrian says.

Tipsheet

WHAT: The 66th Locarno Film Festival
WHEN: Aug. 7-17
WHERE: Locarno, Switzerland

Tributes

Locarno will celebrate George Cukor with a retro spanning some 50 titles, including “My Fair Lady,” “A Star Is Born” and “Let’s Make Love.” Fest topper Carlo Chatrian praises Cukor for “making entertaining movies, but with a very far-from-facile take on life.”

Douglas Trumbull will receive the Swiss fest’s new Vision Award and hold two master classes about his visual effects work.

Werner Herzog will be honored with the Pardo d’onore Swisscom award, dedicated to contempo masters. Chatrian says Herzog’s work “spans no-budget to big-budget cinema, but always with a distinctive identity.”

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