LOCARNO, Switzerland – The weather finally cleared at the 65th edition of the Locarno Film Festival Monday, just in time for the international premiere of Leslye Headland’s wedding comedy Bachelorette and the presentation of the festival’s prestigious Golden Leopard career honor to iconic singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte.
The festival’s Industry Days market event also concluded Monday, with worldwide economic slowdown weighing on buyers. But particpants said there was still some buzz about future deals, plus a small handful of acquisitions that closed during the festival.
Most of the first five days of the lakeside Swiss festival were interrupted by unseasonal rain and thunderstorms -- a particularly problematic issue for the Locarno festival, because its centerpiece venue, the 8,800-seat Piazza Grande, is outdoors. But on Monday, the clouds disappeared late in the day and are now expected to stay away until the conclusion of the festival on August 11.
As a result, the directorial debut of Headland’s Bachelorette was the most attended Piazza Grande screening so far, with a mostly full piazza enjoying the playful treatment of a story about a group of friends asked to be bridesmaids for a girl they disliked when they were in school. The film earlier screened at Sundance and at the Provincetown International Film Festival, but Monday was the first time it screened to an international audience.
The award to Belafonte was one of the highlights of the evening, with the popular 85-year-old singer walking onto stage to enthusiastic applause. It was the second-ever acting award for Belafonte (Berlin honored him last year), who says he still considers himself a singer who sometimes acts rather than a true actor. Nonetheless, Belafonte said he considers the awards a validation of his stands as an activist.
“These awards, coming from cultures and societies where I do not linger, are a validation that there is a global receptivity to the fact that I have taken a stand against war, against racism, against sexism, and so on,” Belafonte said.
Earlier in the day, producer Arnon Milchan, who will be himself be honored in the Piazza Grande Tuesday, spoke ahead of a special screening of Sergio Leone’s 1984 classic epic Once Upon a Time in America, calling it the “best of the more than 150 films he produced” -- counting even Curtis Hanson’s 1997 crime drama L.A. Confidential, which earned him an Oscar nomination.
The 68-year-old Milchan will be given the festival’s Raimondo Rezzonico award Tuesday, ahead of the Piazza Grande screening of Noemie Lvivsky’s coming-of-age comedy Camille redouble (Camille Rewinds).
The three-day Industry Days event closed Monday. The festival did not release final attendance statistics yet, but buyers gathered at the Hotel La Palma au Lac said they felt the weight of the world’s economic problems, with less deal making going on.
Some sales were made, however: the festival reported that RAI Trade, a unit of Italian state broadcaster RAI, acquired tights to Edoardo Gabrielli’s in-competition drama Padroni di casa (Masters of the House), which screened Saturday.
Additionally, Vakansi yang janggal dan penyakit lainnya (Peculiar Vacation and Other Illnesses), from Indonesian director Yosep Anggi Noen, and Polvo, from Guatamalen director Julio Hernandez Cordon, were both acquired by M Appeal in Germany. The films screened in Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present and main competition, respectively. Finally, the in-competition film A última vez que vi Macau (Last Time In Macau) from Portugal's João Rui Guerra da Mata and Pedro Rodrigues was acquired by Germany’s Films Boutique.