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Locarno FF: Interview with Carlo Chatrian

by Susan Kouguell
August 2, 2013 1:30 PM
1 Comment
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carlo c

I recently sat down with Carlo Chatrian, newly appointed artistic director of the Locarno International Film Festival at his office which is only blocks away from the strikingly picturesque Piazza Grande where the outdoor screen and 8,000 seats are now being set up. We discussed his new position, his vision for the Festival, the American films that will be screened in and out of competition, and some of the many highlights and events that begin on August 7 and run for eleven days.

Of his new role as artistic director of the Festival, Chatrian states: “It was an honor and pleasure to take this position.  It is a new adventure for me.”  

Chatrian’s passion for filmmakers, cinema and its history is zealously conveyed whether talking about the Festival’s tributes to Christopher Lee, Anna Karina, Faye Dunaway, Sergio Castellitto, Otar Iosseliani, Jacqueline Bisset, Margaret Ménégoz and Douglas Trumbull -- to the Pardi di domani (Leopards of tomorrow) a competitive section that will screen shorts and medium-length films by young independent auteurs or film school students, who have not yet directed a feature -- to the films screened on the Piazza Grande -- to the Festival’s sidebar Histoire(s) du cinéma.

“Films belong to a wider history,” Chatrian further emphasizes when discussing Histoire(s) du cinéma, (a reference to Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece).  Dedicated to the history of cinema, “this section embodies the identity of the Festival.”  These offerings include newly restored prints of rare and important works in film history; (for the George Cukor retrospective an international preview of a remastered 3D version of The Wizard of Oz), documentaries about actors and filmmakers the Festival is honoring, as well as works presented by the Cinémathèque Suisse as part of Swiss Cinema rediscovered.

Chatrian’s Vision

“When you compose a competition you have to work with new films; it’s important to combine various aspects into a wider program. One of the things that is really important in Locarno, here, maybe more than other film festivals, are the films belonging in dialogue with past films to new. To look at cinema in a new way.”

Chatrian describes his vision of the Festival “as a mosaic, composing the puzzle of the story of cinema.” He adds:  “Diversity is important.” This diversity is further explored in Chatrian’s Director’s statement in which he writes:    

In line with the Festival’s tradition and our own wish to break down barriers, we have tried to establish a dialogue between historic and contemporary cinema, between independent and mainstream productions, documentary and fiction, experimental and essay forms. The only categorical imperative was to work with diversity, take it to extremes, to the point where contradictions emerge. Behind the organization of this year’s Festival lies a concept fed by opposites: not with any intention of molding them into a single line of thought, but rather welcoming them as the different souls that make up cinema and the world.

Reflected in this year’s programs are the connections to past films and how these works are linked to each other, and at times come full circle.  Chatrian cites the examples of the Festival’s posthumous tribute to Portuguese director Paulo Rocha, whose films were launched at the Locarno Film Festival fifty years ago -- to the tribute to Anna Karina, “not only a great actress who worked with Godard and George Cukor, there is that connection to Rocha’s films in the Portugal New Wave and Anna Karina’s relationship to the French New Wave.”

Chatrian continues: “It’s like a web that makes different connections. Another example: Joaqim Pinto, Portuguese director of the film in competition, Eagora?? Lembra-Me? (What Now? Remind Me) was just a child when he went on set when Paulo Rocha was shooting his second feature.”

New American Films at the Festival

The five films coming from the United States include SXSW Grand Jury winner Short Term 12 by Destin Cretton and The Dirties directed by Matthew Johnson, which Chatrian describes as “a challenging work of editing. A film within a film. The main characters are supposed to shoot a film, but at the same time they are being bullied by a group of other students because of their identity.  The film is funny; sometimes a tribute to Ed Wood, but it also conveys a sort of criticism of the world of school.”

Dedicated to emerging international directors and devoted to first and second features, Chatrian comments on the Concorso Cineasti del presente – (Filmmakers of the Present) “Some of these films raise a lot of questions rather than give answers. They are not straight forward; they are more art-house.”

Chatrian describes Forty Years From Yesterday directed by first-time feature directors Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck: “Works with lengths of shots; it’s deeply emotive.  It tries to convey something that is difficult; grief, and empathy between camera and character.”

“Two films that challenge cinematic form are Manakamana and The Unity of all Things.”  The feature documentary Manakamana is synopsized by its directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez:  High above a jungle in Nepal, pilgrims make an ancient journey by cable car to worship Manakamana. Chatrian calls it “a contemplative film with powerful sequences of long takes.” On the first feature The Unity of all Things directed by Alex Carver and Daniel Schmidt, Chatrian states: “A very experimental film based on a big subject, a tough subject -- the idea of time; it has a metaphysical point of view.” 

The science fiction film Dignity, directed by James Fotopoulos, is described by Chatrian, “like a 1960s trip” and remarks on this film’s connection to Douglas Trumbull, the special effects artist and director, who will receive Locarno’s Festival First Vision Award. “It is a nice tribute to Trumbull and how it relates to his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and as the director of Silent Running.”

Filmmaker as Journeyman – Werner Herzog

Another connection to the United States is from European director, Werner Herzog, (this year’s honoree of the Pardo d’onore Swisscom) who is now living in the states.  The Festival will present the world premiere of the four episodes that comprise Herzog’s new mini-series Death Row II, which documents four more cases from death row prisons in Texas. Chatrian says of this work: “a precise look at the American justice system and the American people.”

For cinephiles the world over, the Locarno International Film Festival offers a wide range of work from the past and present, and inspiration for the future of cinema around the globe. 

The Locarno International Film Festival runs from August 7-17, 2013.  For more information visit:

About Susan Kouguell

Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University and presents international seminars.  Author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide.

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1 Comment

  • seagull | August 12, 2013 7:49 AMReply

    Hi there
    We met at the film festival .
    I saw a lot of films there and the best was the one made about Greek music by an Italian musician IMHO
    The film chosen to open the film festival "2 guns" was full of violent scenes and so i left shortly after the scene where chickens buried in the earth so only their heads can be seen above ground are shot at and i do believe the violence got worse...
    Two years ago when i was there last time the opening films were about humanity, an Algerian teacher in exile in Canada teaching about humanity through his experience suffering from violence
    what made this artistic director choose so many violent films for the Piazza Grande can only be commercial
    I left the festival with a bitter taste , even the meeting with Faye Dunaway who had said violence is part of life did not explain the stage so dominated by low quality violent films
    I spoke to film critique and directors from Italy i randomly met and they were of the same opinion and left shortly after the beginning of these violent films.
    I am sure there were quality films as well but the Piazza Grande is usually reserved for the films in the spotlight, how sad and pathetic were these artistic choices..
    Arthur Cohn 's great film "The Garden of Finzi Contini" was screened before the festival opened and was received by a cynical crowd who left shortly after realizing it was actually a serious film about a serious topic, the plight of Italian Jews during WW2.
    When Arthur Cohn spoke a fight broke out between an Italian couple and a smoking woman
    the security did nothing to end the loud screaming but they did spend 15 minutes after midnight arguing with me when i wanted to walk through with a small dog.
    Whatever happened to quality??

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