LOCARNO, Switzerland – The Locarno Film Festival’s packed schedule took place under stormy skies again Sunday, with the presentation of the directors from the Open Doors film lab and the double bill scheduled for the Piazza Grande moved from Europe’s largest outdoor venue to a much less dramatic indoor site.
But the rain did not interrupt a full day of events, which also included the world premiere screening of Peter Mettler’s in-competition documentary The End of Time, plus a half a dozen films from the Carte Blanche sidebar focusing on Mexico and a continuation of the festival’s retrospective of the work of trend-setting director Otto Preminger.
Sunday was also the midpoint of the festival’s Industry Days market event, with industry figures concentrated around Industry Days headquarters at the Hotel La Palma au Lac.
The Piazza Grande audiences were sparse, due to the weather, with only a few hundred hardy film lovers hovelled beneath the raindrops in the festival’s 8,800-seat Piazza Grande, watching the ceremony taking place at the nearby indoor warehouse-like Favi venue.
The pre-film ceremony included an appearance and homage to 72-year-old Souleymane Cisse, the Mali film director and screenwriter. Cisse, who won the jury prize in Cannes for his fantasy drama Yeelen (Brightness) in 1987, teared up when he said that Locarno was the first festival to honor him for a 40-year career in which he directed just seven films, all of them critically acclaimed.
Locarno artistic director Olivier Pere asked Cisse to introduce the up-and-coming directors, all from sub-Sahara francophone Africa, who will participate in the Open Doors co-production film lab this year. The initiative provides funding for some of the directors to finish their projects, and it arranges for meetings with potential producers and distributors.
“I believe Africa is going to be the next region of the world that will surprise us with great cinema,” Pere said.
The Open Doors presentation preceded the evening’s back-to-back screenings: the world premiere screening of Stephane Brize’s French reconciliation drama Quelques heures de printemps (A Few Hours of Spring) followed by Sightseers, a travel comedy from U.K. director Ben Wheatley.
Both Brize and Wheatley were on hand to present their films and both directors made light of the unfortunate weather.
“When they asked me to come to Locarno they said the weather will be beautiful,” Brize said to laughter in the Fevi auditorium. “So much for that.”
Meanwhile, Wheatley tried to put a spin on the rain for those still watching from the Piazza Grande. “Don’t look at is as rain, look at it as a 3D experience, because the raining weather outside is exactly the kind of weather you’ll see for most of the film,” he said, again sparking laughter from the crowd.
Both films were well received by a nearly full Favi crowd.
Pere also announced that Locarno would hold special screenings of the two previous feature films from Wheatley, whose career has also included several television films and series: the crime thriller Kill List from last year and the wry comedy thriller Down Terrace, from 2009.
The festival has suffered from unusually wet weather since it got underway Wednesday, but that did not slow the packed program.
Earlier in the week, the festival presented its most prestigious award, the Leopard of Honor, to iconoclastic French director Leos Carax, who brought his latest film, Holy Motors -- his first full-length film in 13 years -- to Locarno after an attention-grabbing world premiere in Cannes. Carax, who was honored Friday night, is the subject of the most complete retrospective of his work ever that will run the length of the festival.
U.K. actress Charlotte Rampling, who will be joined by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal as recipients of Locarno’s Excellence Award later in the festival, was honored with the prize on opening night Wednesday. Afterward, the festival officially got underway with another wet Piazza Grade screening, of The Sweeney, directed by Nick Love and based on the popular U.K. television series.
The 65-year-old festival concludes Saturday.