The longtime Paris-based master of politically engaged cinema will be on hand at the prominent Swiss fest dedicated to indie filmmaking to receive the prize during a ceremony on its Piazza Grande square on Aug. 11 followed by an audience-led conversation the next day.
Locarno will also host screenings of two of Costa Gravras’ lesser known films: “Un homme de trop” (“Shock Troops”) from 1967, and “Compartiment tueurs” (“The Sleeping Car Murders”), which is his 1965 debut feature.
In a career spanning nearly 60 years, Costa-Gavras — which is short for Konstantinos Gavras — has become known for highly political works, such as 1969’s “Z,” about the military’s coup d’etat in Greece, which won the foreign film Oscar in 1969; and 1982’s “Missing,” which starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek in a story inspired by the military overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende. His 1989 “Music Box,” about the crisis of conscience of a young Chicago lawyer, played by Jessica Lange, defending her father at a deportation hearing where he is accused of Holocaust-era crimes, won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear as well as an Oscar nomination for Lang.
Costa-Gavras’ most recent film is “Adults in the Room,” a 2019 drama about the financial crisis that hit Greece in 2015. The 89-year-old director has also appeared in front of the camera in three pics by John Landis: “Spies Like Us” (1985); “The Stupids” (1996) and “Burke and Hare” (2010). In 2007 Costa-Gavras was re-elected president of the Cinémathèque Française, a position he still holds today.
The festival in a statement praised Costa-Gavras as “a filmmaker whose work has openly denounced injustice, turning his gaze unflinchingly on some of the darkest chapters in our history.”
“He is, in all probability, the cineaste who has investigated most extensively the history of the 20th century, without ever being blinded by ideologies,” said Locarno artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro.
“Although regarded as a ‘political filmmaker’, Costa-Gavras is first and foremost a remarkable auteur, gifted with an extraordinary sense of form and style,” he added.
“Never one to wallow in self-referential mannerisms, he has tirelessly renewed his own gaze and approach,” Nazzaro also noted, becoming “the embodiment of a truly noble idea of cinema as a tool for progress and knowledge; a filmmaker who has never given up the conversation with his audience, always offering his candid version of amusement value and entertainment.”
Previous Pardo alla carriera winners include Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale, Johnnie To, Harry Belafonte, Jane Birkin, Fredi M. Murer and, in 2021, Dante Spinotti.
The 75th edition of Locarno will run Aug. 3-13.