Locarno in Los Angeles: The Swiss Lakeside Festival Visits The Movie Capital of The World

by Marlene von Arx April 19, 2017
Locarno in Los Angeles

The Locarno Film Festival comes to Los Angeles with a three-day public event (April 21-23, 2017) which will feature a selection from the 69th edition of one of the longest running European Film Festivals, including ten L.A. premieres, two panel discussions and three evening receptions at The Downtown Independent cinema. It may not be as famous as the Cannes Film Festival, but just like the glamorous event on the Côte d’Azur, this year Switzerland’s historic film event  will celebrate its 70th year of showing the work of brand new, as well as established voices in Cinema. And located on the Swiss shores of Lago Maggiore, with nightly screenings on the Piazza Grande, Locarno enjoys a stunning setting that just may rival the Croisette on the French Riviera.

Now for the first time, a selection of last year’s Locarno edition will be shown in Los Angeles during a three-day event at The Downtown Independent cinema. Acropolis Cinema, an L.A. based screening series dedicated to experimental and undistributed films will host in collaboration with the Locarno Festival and the Swiss Consulate General in Los Angeles. “Since our inception in January 2016, we always showed films from Locarno”, says Acropolis Cinema founder and Locarno in Los Angeles artistic director Jordan Cronk. “That’s where you get a lot of innovative quality films that haven’t necessarily gotten the wide reach other Festival films get, which makes it easier to curate ten premieres of boundary-pushing films that traditionally have a difficult time being shown in Los Angeles.”

Staying with the MO of Acropolis Film to show unavailable and non-distributed films, the selection focuses on feature films that have never been shown in Los Angeles theaters or Festivals. The opening night film is Argentinian filmmaker Matías Piñero’s Shakespeare-inspired Hermia & Helena set in New York. Also featured are Yuri Ancarani’s desert saga The Challenge (Italy/France/Switzerland), winner of the Special Jury Prize (Filmmakers of the Present); the controversial Japanese film Destruction Babies by Mariko Tetsuya, winner Best Emerging Director (Filmmakers of the Present) and as closing night film the winner of the Special Jury Prize (Competition) Scarred Hearts (Romania/Germany) directed by Radu Jude, about love in time of tuberculosis in a 1937 sanatorium on the Black Sea Coast,

The Mini-Festival will take place April 21-23, 2017 and will also include two panel discussions (“How to Get Art Cinema in Front of Los Angeles Audiences”, “How Locarno Presents International Cinema”) and three evening receptions/parties.

The idea to bring the Locarno Festival, one of the oldest in the world, to L.A. came from US film critic and writer Robert Koehler who has also served as director of programming at the Qingdao International Film Festival, as well as Film Society of Lincoln Center and is the co-creator of the ongoing Los Angeles-based film series, “The Films That Got Away”: “In 1974 I covered the Film X, Festival in Los Angeles, which had the great idea to collaborate with Cannes’ Semaine de la Critique, which was still fairly new at the time and totally cutting edge and radical. They imported the entire program and showed it over two weekends. I went to each screening. There were packed houses for films by filmmakers no one had ever heard of before, many were first films or North American premieres. Incredible discoveries were made and it felt like being in Cannes without having to be there. I thought this should be done all the time.”

It did not become a regular occurrence, however. Cronk and co-artistic director Koehler think it’s time for another attempt to advance the cultural exchange between an international Festival and the capital of the American film industry and they hope that Locarno in Los Angeles will become the annual event for cutting edge discoveries that the city has been waiting for since the seventies. “As a film critic and film writer, I attended many Festivals”, says Koehler. “But Locarno is unmatched in terms of the adventurous scope of cinema, its exciting youthful energy and way of discovering filmmakers who matter. And this all in a setting in the Ticino region of Switzerland which feels like you are going on a holiday.”

The Consul General of Switzerland in Los Angeles Emil Wyss is convinced that bringing the Locarno brand to Los Angeles has long term potential and will become an annual event: “Other consulates will help that audiences will find their films and make the Festival a success and self-sustaining. I see a win-win situation.”

For more information and the program go to: https://www.locarnoinlosangeles.com