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Locarno Film Festival Topper Carlo Chatrian Raises the Bar With Mix of Newcomers and Known Names

Since taking the reins at Locarno in 2013 artistic director Carlo Chatrian has been gradually raising the bar while aiming to “strike a balance in the competition between directors who need this platform for recognition and those who have already attained it,” says 43-year-old soft-spoken Italian film critic, now at his third edition.

This year he’s assembled a meticulously modulated mix across all sections. It ranges from the world premiere of Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash,” toplining Meryl Streep as an ageing rock star, and new works by acclaimed auteurs including Chantal Akerman, Athina Rachel Tsagari, and Hong Sang-soo, to potential discoveries such as Iranian film “Paradise,” a first work by Sina Ataeian, that provides a rare non-naturalistic glimpse on contemporary Iran and is produced by Jafar Panahi’s brother, Yousef Panahi.

For the competition Chatrian has secured 14 world preems, including new pics by name auteurs such as Greek auteur Tsangari’s long-awaited “Chevalier” (pictured), set on a luxury yacht in the middle of the Aegean sea on which six men decide to play a very competitive game; Gallic veteran Akerman’s docu “Not a Home Movie,” about her late mother; ace Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello’s docu/feature “Bella e Perduta,” co-penned with Maurizio Braucci, a screenwriter on Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorra”; “Right Now, Wrong Then,” by South Korea’s celebrated Hong Sang-soo, sometimes dubbed “the Korean Woody Allen”; and “Cosmos” by Polish auteur Andrzej Zulawski, who is known for his creative anarchy.

Traditional narratives and new “but not necessarily experimental” languages will be feeding the cinematic minds of the young European film buffs that constitute Locarno’s core audience.

Besides the previously mentioned “Paradise,” newcomers or lesser known names with breakout potential competing for a Golden Pard include Gallic multihyphenate Pascale Breton’s “Suite Armoricaine,” which follows her well-received debut “Illumination” more than a decade later; and Israeli director Avishai’s “Tikkun,” about the perturbations of an Orthodox Jew.

The competition also comprises two Sundance standouts, Rick Alverson’s “Entertainment,” about the odyssey of a washed-up American standup comic, and Josh Mond’s potent, if punishing, family drama “James White,” both getting their European launches.

Chatrian notes that he plucked them from Sundance’s Next section “which is probably closest in spirit to the Locarno competition.”

As for the generally more mainstream but also very diverse Piazza Grande section, scoring the world preem of Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash,” which is penned by Diablo Cody, as opener on Locarno 8,000-seat open-air venue, ahead of its U.S. release August 7 via Sony’s TriStar Pictures, marks a nice coup.

Other Piazza Grande titles include Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw,” Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck,” Anurag Kashyap’s Bollywood gangster epic “Bombay Velvet” and also less mainstream movies on historical themes such as Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia,” and German director Lars Kraume’s “Der Staat Gegen Fritz Bauer,” about the prosecutor who initiated the Auschwitz trials.

Piazza Grande titles will compete for the Pix du Public audience Award, and also for the Variety Piazza Grande Award given by Variety critics to the best fest title launching from Europe’s largest open-air venue, and combining artistic excellence and commercial potential.

Chatrian is particularly proud that former Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas among his top 2015 picks cited Paris-based American-born director Eugene Green’s eclectic “La Sapienza,” which Kino Lorber recently released Stateside, having picked up the pic shortly after its Locarno world premiere.

“La Sapienza,” as Foundas puts it, is the “playful tale of a melancholy architect and his wife who rediscover themselves (and their love for each other) through their encounter with two idealistic teenage siblings, and the ghost of the 17th-century Swiss-Italian architect Francesco Borromini.”

“The fact that a film like that can break through to the American market is a signal that Locarno as a platform, combined with its informal market, can really make an impact,” Chatrian boasts.

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