I Went to the Locarno Film Festival and All I Got Were These 5 Incredible Movies

I Went to the Locarno Film Festival and All I Got Were These 5 Incredible Movies

Aug 27, 2013

Katelyn Trott, on loan to Movies.com from Indiewire's 2013 Critic's Academy, reports on her five favorite movies from the 2013 Locarno Film Festival. She also dishes on what to expect while staying in the Italian city. For more on the Critic's Academy, see the bottom of this post.


In a private interview between the Locarno Film Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrain and all nine other Critic's Academy members (myself included), the director said a film festival is like an island and the job of a film critic is that of a boat that brings something back to the mainland. From this festival I bring you, the mainland, five of my favorite films: Blue Ruin, The Keeper of Lost Causes, Short Term 12, Le Sens de L'humour, The Dirties as well as a few of my favorite tidbits of how to live it up in Locarno.

Blue Ruin

American revenge story Blue Ruin is nothing but atypical from a traditional American revenge story. After an eight-minute opening scene with no dialogue our protagonist gets his revenge. It is not because he is a terribly skilled ex-marine, John McClane sort of guy, it is because he has been preparing for this moment for years. Actor Macon Blair plays the lead, Dwight, subtly and with a very convincing sincerity. The story begins when he, as a normal guy, deals with the aftermath of revenge. Dwight is more relatable for the general population who do not have a Liam Neeson-worthy special set of skills, but can identify with anger and fear.

Locarno Fun Fact: Pizza is flowing from the mountains in Locarno. Every single restaurant has at least seven different kinds of pizza, but all of them require a knife and fork.

The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Scandinavian New Wave leaves a strong impression at Locarno with Mikkel Nørgaard's The Keeper of Lost Causes. The crime thriller is just as much thriller as it is buddy-cop movie. Hairs will stand on end as a chief detective and his assistant discover that one of their cold cases has a hot new lead. Then Nørgaard offers a brief repose as the two detectives banter about their different approaches to solving crimes. Based on a best-selling book, The Keeper of Lost Causes provides richer backstories to central and peripheral characters and is able to completely envelop the audience within a short amount of time.

Locarno Fun Fact: You can only predict that the weather will be unpredictable. One of the largest screens in Europe, the Piazza Grande, is uncovered, but if you pack well a movie in the rain is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Short Term 12

Making its international premiere at Locarno, Short Term 12 received a well deserved six-minute standing ovation. Beautifully acted and well shot, this film merged tenderness and technique into a film for people who don't like the sappy, but have a heart. Brie Larson as Grace, the supervisor at the foster-care facility, is believable both as the strong authority figure and as the damaged adult. She proves the showbiz adage that one should not work with animals or children does not apply to her. While the kids in the film certainly demonstrate their chops, Larson does not let the narrative slip from her character.

Locarno Fun Fact: You can get around easily in Locarno with hand gestures. Sharing the Lake Maggiore with Milan, they speak Italian and what I lovingly refer to as Italian-invented universal pantomime.

Le Sens de l'humour 

Le Sens de l'humour is a Marilyne Canto passion project. She writes and directs her debut feature and succeeds at both. As widowed mom Elise, Canto has a special way of expressing grief without moping. At times she borders on apathetic, but consistently revives her character with humorous moments she shares with her son and passionate explanation of her favorite art pieces. 

Locarno Fun Fact: Leonardo da Vinci is rumored to be the original designer of the Visconti Castle, located in Locarno.

The Dirties

Director, cowriter, editor and lead actor of The Dirties, Matt Johnson delivers a fresh angle on school shootings, verifying that humor and sincerity come across as more endearing than somber flicks dedicated to the same subject. The film follows two bullied teens through the process of making a school film punishing school bullies they name "the dirties." As the bullying intensifies, one of them stops fantasizing and starts planning. Shot with a very home video-type vibe, this film makes an interesting use of diagetic mics and Go-Pros. 


"A year ago, in partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Indiewire launched the Critics Academy at the Locarno International Film Festival. It was a new approach to stimulating the proverbial troubled marketplace for film criticism: Along with writing about new movies for a variety of publications and deepening their clips, participants are given the opportunity to engage in candid discussions with a broad range of critics and other members of the film community about the context of the profession and its continuing relevance." -- Indiewire

Categories: Features, Film Festivals
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