68th Locarno film festival opens under the stars | Film | DW | 05.08.2015
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68th Locarno film festival opens under the stars

Political films, glamor and stars: This Swiss film festival has it all. Held from August 5-11, the tradition-rich event has one of the world's most beautiful movie theaters.

Cannes, Venice and Berlin cannot compete with the magnificence of the venue. During the festival, up to 8,000 people gather every evening on the Piazza Grande, the main square in the heart of the Swiss city, to watch films. In a breathtaking backdrop amidst beautiful town houses, churches and a historic palace, a bright beam of light projects the films onto a giant screen. Under the stars, a combination of new releases and classic films can be watched there.

Meryl Steep in Ricki and the Flash

A different Meryl Streep this time, as a lady rocker in "Ricki and the Flash"

Meryl Streep rocks

The Locarno Film Festival opens on Wednesday (05.08.2015) with the US comedy-drama "Ricki and the Flash." Director Jonathan Demme gained cult status with his Oscar-winning film "The Silence of the Lambs" - but this film is in a different genre altogether.

In it, Meryl Streep depicts a failed rock star confronted with her past. Having given up her husband and children to pursue her music career, she visits them again years later and has to deal with the problems of the "normal world" long left behind.

Burghart Klaussner in The People vs. Fritz Bauer

In "The People vs. Fritz Bauer," Burghart Klaußner in the title role

Nazis and normalcy

The film "Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer" (The People vs. Fritz Bauer) will also be shown on the Piazza Grande. In Germany, this is certainly one of the most awaited films to be shown during the festival.

Burghard Klaussner stars as the legendary German prosecutor Fritz Bauer, an essential figure in the prosecution of former Nazi criminals during the 1950s and 60s.

With the issue then still very sensitive, Bauer was widely controversial and often stood alone in his persistent efforts. Many people in power had earlier served under the Nazi regime. It was only years later that historians and politicians recognized Fritz Bauer's contribution to the establishment of a democratic justice system and the prosecution of Nazi criminals.

The race for the Leopard

Another feature of the festival is the "Concorso Internazionale." The Fritz Bauer film and "Ricki and the Flash" are both shown outside this competition, but 19 other films vie for the festival's main prize, the Golden Leopard.

No German directors are in the competition this year, but three productions were made with German funding. The Swiss-German co-production "Heimatland" (Wonderland) was directed by several filmmakers. In the film, Switzerland is plagued by a mysterious ecological disaster, and the people's various reactions reflect contemporary European society.

Iran and Mexico

The German-Iranian co-production "Ma dar Behesht" (Paradise) by director Sina Ataeian Dena gives an insider's view of modern Iranian society.

Piazza Grande in Locarno

Breathtaking backdrop: the Piazza Grande in Locarno

Finally, in the German-Mexican co-production "Te prometo anarquía" (I Promise You Anarchy), director Julio Hernández Cordón portrays two friends trying to survive in pulsating Mexico City.

Other prominent directors in the race for the Golden Leopard include Otar Iosseliani from Georgia, Polish-French director Andrzej Zulawski and Chantal Akerman from Belgium. Films from Russia, Greece, Japan, the United States, Israel, South Korea and Sri Lanka complete the program.

On his blog, festival director Carlo Chatrian comments on a current trend among filmmakers: "The home has become an emotionally charged space." With this, he refers to the fact that in times of global refugee flows, many films focus on questions of exile and migration.

Dustin Hoffman and Susan George in Straw Dogs

Dustin Hoffman and Susan George in Sam Peckinpah's tale of revenge: "Straw Dogs"

Film history lessons

Of course, not only current social issues take the screen at this festival. Locarno is known for preparing thorough retrospectives that pay tribute to the big names of film history.

This year, the festival highlights the works of the US director Sam Peckinpah, who died in 1984, leaving behind films like "Straw Dogs" and "The Wild Bunch," memorable for their strong depiction of violence.

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