Harrison Ford Honored at Locarno Film Festival

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LOCARNO, Switzerland – French acting icon Gerard Depardieu and Sylvie Pialat, the widow of French director Maurice Pialat, were honored Monday at the Locarno Film Festival, which paid tribute to the work between Depardieu and the late Pialat.

The homage preceded the world premier Piazza Grande screening of Bachir Lazhar, from Canadian director Philippe Falardeau, an adaptation of the play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere. The film tells the story of a replacement teacher from Algeria, who helps a Quebec class recover from the loss of its previous teacher, who died, while dealing with his own personal issues.

Monday’s cerebral fare, followed on the heels of a start-studded weekend schedule highlighted by the Saturday premiere of Cowboys & Aliens, with director John Favreau and actors Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde on hand for the event. The festival handed out a lifetime achievement award to Ford before the film screened.

Another major prize was handed out Sunday, when Isabelle Huppert was presented Locarno’s Excellence Award.

Monday’s Francophone evening sparked an enthusiastic response from the nearly full Piazza Grande crowd. Olivier Pere, Locarno’s second year artistic director praised what he called “an extraordinary friendship and partnership” between Depardieu and the late director, who died in 2003, and he set the stage for one of the centerpieces of Tuesday’s schedule: a round table conversation featuring Depardieu and Sylvie Pialat and moderated by Pere. The day will also feature a screening of Le Garcu, a Depardieu-Pialat collaboration.

The festival also honored jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi Monday, paying tribute to his plight and screening Ayneh (Mirror), his 1997 film that won the Leopard of honor prize in Locarno that year.

The festival, which got underway August 3, concludes Saturday.

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