From the Locarno Film Festival
Hello to all from the 58th annual film Festival at Locarno, Switzerland. I arrived last Monday for the almost 2-week festival, the second oldest in the world (or so I am told; Venice is the oldest). I am a member of the ecumenical jury and I was told yesterday the first American to ever be part of the ecumenical jury at Locarno; there are three Catholics named from SIGNIS (www.signis.net) : Peter Malone, president of SIGNIS, Rueben an award-winning documentary maker from Lugano (where the Daughters of St. Paul have a book center and where Rueben is taking Peter and I to visit tomorrow morning before the screenings start).
Locarno is in the Ticino region of Switzerland, the place where the BBC made that funny short mockumentary about spaghetti growing on trees back in the 1950′s that media literacy people love to use in workshops).
Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Interfilm, a Christian and ecumenical film organization in Europe and the United States. The event has a panel (Peter and I were on it) to respond to the question: Is it possible to have a Christian view of film? and it led to a conversation about an interreligious view of film. The event honored the director Wim Wenders (please click on this link to see the presentation speech that the jury president gave him). Wenders responded in German but one remark was translated for us. Wenders said that when he started making films he thought it was all about the visible image, but as time went by he learned filmmaking was about invisible realities. We all got our pictures taken with him and if someone will send me a digital copy, I will forward it.
We have seen eight films so far, five in competition. We saw a film called FACES OF CHANGE, a video documentary by a woman from New York about five people from around the world who made home videos of their social realities to present at the UN Conference on Racisim in South Africa a couple of years ago. It was excellent. Bulgaria was about discrimination against gypsies; Brazil was about how young women of color are treated when they are pregnant out of wedlock; one African country was about slavery that continues even though the government denies it; the US was about a housing development in New Orleans that was build on top of a toxic waste dump and sold to African Americans and how they were not told about it until they called in the EPA because so many people were getting cancers and severe respitory illnesses; and the Hindu caste system in India, the untouchables in particular (they are untouchables becasuse they make drums to play at the higher castes’ funerals and the drums are made from the skins of cattle – hence untouchable because cows are sacred.
This film was preceded by a a highly effective and shocking short about ‘honor killings’ in Islamic families: when a daughter is raped, she is killed rather than the rapist being brought to justice. This is a human rights problem that the UN is documenting or has been for some time.
Of the other films, two have been particularly notable, but we still have at least 12 or 14 more to go.
Besides the Wim Wenders presentation, this link also has a list of the jury members.
By the way, Switzerland is incredibly lovely and Locarno is very hot.
There are very few americans here; all the industry magazines and papers are covered by journalists from the UK (Variety, Hollywood Reporter.)
In the evenings, starting at 9:30pm, there are screenings on the Piazza Grande and the whole region turns out it seems.
If I have time tomorrow I will give a brief review of each film we have seen so far.