Locarno Unveils Genre-Friendly Lineup Premiering Abel Ferrara’s ‘Zeros and Ones,’ U.S. Thriller ‘Ida Red’

Melissa Leo in Ida Red
Courtesy Locarno Film Festival

The Locarno Film Festival has unveiled a promising lineup combining edgy new works by established auteurs such as Abel Ferrara alongside plenty of potential discoveries by emerging helmers and global newcomers for its upcoming 74th edition.

It will be the first one under new Artistic Director Giona A. Nazzaro, the former Venice Critics’ Week chief who is steering the Swiss fest known as an international incubator and indie cinema temple on a more audience-friendly course.

“A festival can be quite highbrow and also entertaining at the same time” Nazzaro told Variety. “That is why for this year’s lineup we have selected several comedies and also some genre movies, as well as straightforward auteur films,” he added.

As usual the bulk of Locarno’s crowdpleasers will launch from the Swiss lakeside town’s 8,000-seat Piazza Grande square which is Europe’s largest outdoor venue and this year has been approved by Swiss health authorities for a 5,000 spectator capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Piazza Grande titles comprise the world premiere of U.S. indie thriller “Ida Red” which has an A-list cast comprising Frank Grillo, Melissa Leo, Josh Hartnett and William Forsythe and is directed by John Swab (“Body Brokers”) who shot the pic in Oklahoma during the pandemic. Leo plays the title character, a hardened criminal serving a 25-year sentence in an Oklahoma jail from which she continues to run her family’s illicit business. For this bow the plan is to try and fly over some “Ida Red” talents to Switzerland, though it is not certain organizers will succeed due to coronavirus complications, they said.

Other North American titles getting Locarno Piazza Grande screenings – albeit not world premiers – are Aretha Franklin biopic ” Respect,” the feature film debut of stage director Liesl Tommy, starring Jennifer Hudson; and sci-fi action comedy “Free Guy” starring Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer, directed by Shawn Levy.

Ferrara, who is known for cult classics such as “Bad Lieutenant” and more recently “Siberia,” will be world premiering Ethan Hawke-starrer “Zeros and Ones,” a political thriller set amid lockdown in Italy in a scenario where the Vatican has been blown up and an American soldier stationed in Rome named JJ (Hawke) embarks on a mission to find an unknown enemy who is threatening the globe.

The apocalyptic Ferrara pic will screen in Locarno’s main competition, vying for a Golden Leopard with debuting Icelandic director Hannes Þór Halldórsson’s comedy “Cop Secret,” about a tough cop in denial of his sexuality who falls in love with his new partner while investigating some bank break-ins; and with wacky coming-of-age comedy “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” by the Indonesian indie darling known as Edwin; and also with fantasy film “Paradis Sale,” set on a planet where only women can survive by French director Bertrand Mandico (“The Wild Boys”). These are among titles that reflect Nazzaro’s genre-friendly vision. 

Other Locarno competition entries comprise Russian director Aleksandr Zeldovich’s “Medea,” which transposes the Greek tragedy to today’s Moscow; Austrian director Peter Brunner’s Alps set drama “Luzifer,” inspired by the true tale of an exorcism and produced by Austrian director Ulrich Seidl; “The Giants,” a Sardinia-set pic that takes its cue from ties between old friends directed by Italy’s Bonifacio Angius; and “The Sacred Spirit,” a surreal sci-fi movie involving UFOs and the search for a missing girl that has half of Spain on the lookout, by Spanish helmer Chema García Ibarra.  

As previously announced, the Locarno out-of-competition opener is Italian director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s thriller “Beckett,” starring John David Washington, Boyd Holbrook, Vicky Krieps and Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander which is getting a Piazza Grande launch on August 4 and will subsequently drop on Netflix Aug. 13 worldwide.

Other Piazza Grande world premiers include Jordanian helmer Bassel Ghandour’s “The Alleys” set in a claustrophobic East-Amman neighborhood where violence, and gossip, run rampant; Italian animation feature “Yaya and Lenny — The Walking Liberty” by Alessandro Rak (“Cinderella The Cat”); and Swiss period piece “Monte Verità” directed by Stefan Jäger which portrays female emancipation in a turn-of-the-century artists’ community.

As for gender parity in this year’s Locarno lineup, Nazzaro noted that the Filmmakers of the Present section, which is dedicated specifically to discoveries, features nine out of fifteen entries by female directors, and that the Leopards of Tomorrow shorts section is well balanced.

Not so when it comes to the fest’s main competition which features just four women directors out of seventeen entries which Nazzaro said reflects the submissions he received to this section that were 70% by male directors and 30% female.

More titles are expected to be added to the lineup in coming weeks.

The Locarno Film Festival is currently on track to take place Aug. 4-14 as a physical event in compliance with Swiss health and sanitary guidelines.

2021 Locarno Lineup


“Beckett,” Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Italy)

“Hinterland,” Stefan Ruzowitzky (Austria, Luxembourg)

“Monte Verità,” Stefan Jäger (Switzerland, Austria, Germany)

“The Alleys,” Bassel Ghandour (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar)

“Free Guy,” Shawn Levy (U.S., Canada, Japan)

“Ida Red,” John Swab (U.S.)

“Yaya e Lennie – The Walking Liberty,” Alessandro Rak (Italy)

“Rose,” Aurélie Saada (France)

“Respect,” Liesl Tommy (Canada, U.S.)

“Vortex,” Gaspar Noé (France/Belgium/Monaco)

“Sinkhole,” Kim Ji-hoon (South Korea)


“The Giants,” Bonifacio Angius (Italy)

“The River,” Ghassan Salhab (Lebanon, France, Germany, Qatar)

“Juju Stories,” Abba T. Makama, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua (Nigeria, France)

“Medea,” Alexander Zeldovich (Russia)

“Soul of a Beast,” Lorenz Merz (Switzerland)

“Petite Solange – Axelle Ropert (France)

“Luzifer,” Peter Brunner (Austria)

“Zeros and Ones,” Abel Ferrara (Italy, Germany, U.S.)

“Heavens Above,”  Srdjan Dragojevic (Serbia, Germany, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina)

“The Odd-Job Men,” Neus Ballús (Spain)

“A New Old Play” Qiu Jiongjiong (Hong Kong, France)

The Sacred Spirit” Chema García Ibarra (Spain, France, Turkey)

“Cop Secret” Hannes Þór Halldórsson (Iceland)

Secret Name” Aurélia Georges (France)

“Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” by Edwin (Indonesia, Singapore Germany)

“Paradis sale” by Bertrand Mandico (France) 

Gerda,” Natalya Kudryashova (Russia)