Youth (Hard Times) | Locarno Film Festival

Locarno Film Festival to Screen New Documentaries from Wang Bing, Ben Rivers, Radu Jude

Festival Runs Aug. 7-17

6 mins read

Celebrating its 77th edition, the Locarno Film Festival announced its exciting lineup this morning with a handful of anticipated documentary and hybrid titles. Broadcast across the globe through a YouTube livestream, Swiss radio-presenter Sandy Altermatt discussed the lineup with artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro and president Maja Hoffman. Locarno will host over 104 world premieres this year. During his opening remarks, Nazzaro mentioned Locarno’s strong presence on the world stage. As of late, the Swiss festival has supported filmmakers by promoting their work after their Locarno premieres. Many of the Locarno selections travel to festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and the Busan International Film Festival. “The festival of Locarno doesn’t just last eleven days,” Nazzaro said during the conference. “Once the last film has been shown at Locarno, the Locarno Film Festival begins in the rest of the world.”

Locarno is best known for the Piazza Grande; an outdoor cinema with a capacity of over 8000 seats. Located in the heart of the township, the cobbled square welcomes filmmakers, locals, and special guests to one of the largest screens in the world. “Locarno is an experience,” added Hoffman. “The town itself is just as important as the variety of the programme.”

Two documentaries are set to premiere in the Piazza Grande. The Sundance sensation Gaucho Gaucho will screen at the beloved outdoor cinema on Wednesday, August 14th. The film warmly celebrates the history and legacy of Argentine gauchos, a community of cowgirls and cowboys who live beyond the boundaries of the modern world. The film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Sound at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Paolo Cognetti’s A Flower of Mine will premiere two days before the start of the festival on Tuesday, August 6. As part of the pre-festival selection, the documentary explores the relationship between humanity and the environment through Cognetti’s intimate nature walks. Cognetti is best known for writing the best-selling novel The Eight Mountains.

In the international competition, journalists were taken by surprise with the announcement of Wang Bing’s Youth (Hard Times). After competing at Cannes with his first part in a proposed trilogy Youth (Spring), Wang continues his observation of Chinese sweatshops with his iconic cinema vérité style. As predicted, the documentary clocks in at a lengthy runtime of 227 minutes—a full 15 minutes longer than its predecessor. Bing previously won Locarno’s Golden Leopard for 2017’s Mrs. Fang.

Youth (Hard Times) isn’t the only documentary sequel competing in the Concorso Internazionale. Ben Rivers’ Bogancloch returns to Jake Williams’ titular abode, which was featured in Two Years at Sea (2011). Through its atmospheric cinematography, Rivers captures Williams’ solitude amidst the quietude of the Scottish landscape.

Another Golden Leopard contender emerges from the competition with the unique Lebanese documentary Green Line. Sylvie Ballyot’s film explores Fida Bizri’s turbulent upbringing during the Lebanese civil war. Through animated figurines and miniatures, Green Line interrogates Biziri’s childhood memory with dreamlike imagery.

After winning the special jury prize at Locarno with Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, Romanian auteur Radu Jude returns to the festival with two experimental feature films. Jude collaborated with philosopher Christian Ferencz-Flatz on Eight Postcards from Utopia. The film is a found-footage documentary that samples miscellaneous post-socialist advertisements from Romania. The project has been described as a work of found poetry that situates itself between “trash art and Summa theologiae.” Not much is known about Jude’s second out-of-competition feature Sleep #2, which serves as a tribute to Andy Warhol.

Other notable documentaries at the festival include Fabrice Du Welz’s celebrity portrait The Passion According to Béatrice, Adele Tulli’s technology-centric Real, and Nicole Vögele’s award-winning The Landscape and the Fury. Locarno will also screen a variety of cutting-edge narrative features including Hong Sang-soo’s microbudget drama By The Stream, Mohammad Rasoulof’s politically charged The Seed of the Sacred Fig, Ramon Zürcher’s chaotic family drama The Sparrow in the Chimney, Christoph Hochhäusler’s crime thriller Death Will Come, and Patrice Sauvé’s family-friendly Quebecois romp Blue Sky Joe.

And on the Canadian front, auteur Denis Côté returns to Locarno with the short Jours avant le mort de Nicky, which screens in the Leopards of Tomorrow competition.

David Cuevas is a filmmaker and writer based in Ottawa, Ontario. With his limited time, he can be seen trekking between Toronto and Montreal to avoid the cataclysmic mundanity of the National Capital bore. You can also find the man of the hour at prestigious film festival events around the globe, with prior journalistic history with festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, IFFR, and TIFF. During the hot summer nights, David works as an associate programmer for the Ottawa International Animation Festival. David has written for various publications including POV Magazine, Next Best Picture, In Review Online, The Playlist, and ASIFA. He is also the Festivals Editor for FilmHounds Magazine. David funds his short film Ouvre on the side. David Cuevas was last seen as a filmmaker at the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival with his short film Avulsion.

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