Traveling with the audience chairs

The British director Gurinder Chadha, of Indian descent, brought women’s football to Piazza Grande with her film Bend it Like Beckham: her abiding memory of Locarno is the surprise of seeing people throng the streets of the Festival and the discovery that everyone is there to watch her movie.

This is just one of the cherished recollections of a number of cinema personalities. Bruno Ganz recalls rainy screenings in Piazza Grande under an umbrella. The two directors of Microcosmos, Marie Pérennou and Claude Nuridsany, talk about how their tiny actor-insects turned into giants on the enormous screen. Director Alessandro D’Alatri recalls his fear on realising that thousands of people seated in the open air theatre of the Festival’s piazza will be watching and judging his film. For Anna Galiena, the often vociferous public brings with it the joyous spirit of her childhood film-watching.

Each has their own Piazza Grande memories, and every evening these are served up as a filmic appetizer. Before the Festival’s artistic director takes to the stage to announce the start of the evening’s programme, a pair of black and yellow chairs appear on the screen, identical to those filling the piazza. But these are placed elsewhere: among market stalls in Zurich… isolated in the green countryside of France… or on the cobblestones of an old Roman street.

The chairs will be located in the hometowns of actors or directors who over the course of numerous festivals have seen their film win the Prix du Public UBS. This idea of a return, condensed into a minute and a half of memories, greetings and thanks, is a celebration of the anniversary of one of the Festival del film Locarno’s mainstay awards. For 20 years now, the audience sitting in the piazza has become the world’s largest open-air jury, casting their votes for the film they enjoyed the most.

From Smoke by Wayne Wang, Das Leben der Anderen by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Bend it like Beckham by Gurinder Chadha to The Human Resources Manager by Eran Riklis, a look at the long list of the winners shows how it represents not only the most recent history of the Locarno Film Festival, but also a good slice of the history of contemporary cinema. These little capsule films that will open proceedings each evening at the Piazza Grande are our way of refreshing that history, not only a way of renewing tradition but also of launching visions of the present and the future through a dive into the past. And a reminder that once again it will be the public in the piazza that choose who will sit next year on those leopard-adorned seats, scattered around the world. (Text by Lorenzo Buccella)

Direction: Lorenzo Buccella, Michele Jannuzzi
Editing: Alberto Meroni
Camera: Alberto Meroni, Giona Pellegrini and Carlo De Domenico (Ziblab)
Clapping: Nick Norton-Smith
Sound: Riccardo Studer
Production: Jannuzzi Smith, London/Lugano

Gurinder Chadha
Anna Galiena
Sebastian Koch
Alessandro D’Alatri
Bruno Ganz
Saskia Rosendahl
Philippe Falardeau