Locarno is over. I mean for us. For this year. Our days spent there were great : good food, average weather, interesting movies, bad scenarios, crowded theaters, beautiful meals, etc…
I could say it was a year like another. I could come back with the same feelings and ideas. But this year has been different. Different in many ways.
First of all, we can feel the touch of the new director. We feel this strong passion for sharp artistic content. A lot of what is being chosen tends to shift the center of gravity towards more production of Western Europe and USA. Basically a focus on the Occidental perspective of life. A very interesting choice, as we experience a financial crisis for those geographical area. And one of the consequences of a crisis, is the need for a protection of our assets. In movies, our assets are beliefs and convictions.
This shift brought a lot of movies that showed heroes without passion, rebels without a cause, a need for change without bravery and a safe look back to our happy youth in the 80s. As well a lack of love, a lack of humanity and more importantly : a lack of empathy and brotherhood. It seems like those productions are suffering from the crisis in a deeper way than just the lack of money : the generation that creates , write, shoots and edits such is sitting between a rock and a hard place. The model of society we knew has to change, will change and is really about to change. Our way of opening perspectives, showing the world, being the “gatekeepers of the truth” (to quote Mr Belafonte) is changing has well. And clearly that generation of film makers hesitates like our entire Occidental world between changing the paradigm and holding back a bit longer to be sure the landing will be safe. A feeling of pre-rebellion, pre-action, pre-change of times drives some of those movies we have watched.
So does the artistic line chosen by the Director, and it does change the Festival’s heart turning it into another of those dying european events like Venice or Berlin : the amount of people with the cheetah pass, the amount of professionals, the sold out premieres and therefore the lack of seats, the short list of movies that travel around the Festivals, the increased size of the special VIP area on the Piazza…is more evident than ever.
Until now Locarno had this unbelievable freedom of not getting hurt or touch or influenced as strongly as others by the global dynamics. A real festival for movie “passionates” and lovers of that art. It meant making questionable choices on the movies selection, too often qualified by extremely wide, not having a clear direction, being unequal in quality and quantity. But it had its freedom and was serving its art. The new red carpet, where more special guests than stars will walk over is the sign of a standardization to a model of what a movie festival should be.
We all do the same. We like, when starting a new project, personal or professional, to make it look like our previous ones, in order to feel reassured and to give confidence to our partners. In our times of changes, having such attitude is for sure safe. But it is as well a clear choice of the side we want to belong to.
I want to make clear I am not calling back any nostalgia or pretend it used to be better. I just believe we entered a new phase and it will take time to everyone to adapt to the new world that is getting shaped. And for such, we need to keep our minds opened to the uncertainties that will come. The debate about Eastern European schools and Swiss ones was probably one of the most important on that topic so far ; next generations can’t get taught the way we were. They will enter a new professional model that is our responsibility to create and to provide.
Locarno Festival was 65 this year. I am afraid that some will believe we saw the early signs for retirement. Maybe are those signs only directed towards our way of thinking the cinema on this side of the world…