Chinese film takes Locarno's top prize

'Han Jia,' 'Morgen' among fest winners

ROME -- Li Hongqi 's "Han Jia" (Winter Vacation), a coming-of-age story set it small town China, won the Locarno Film Festival's Golden Leopard prize Saturday during a full but drizzly ceremony at the Piazza Grande. It is the second consecutive year that a film from a Chinese director took home the festival's top prize.
Among the festival's other top prizes: "Morgen," a border drama set on the boundary between Romania and Hungary from Marian Crisan, won a Special Jury Prize, while Denis Cote was given the Prize of the City and Region of Locarno for Best Director for the Canadian thriller "Curling." Emmanuel Bilodeau, the male lead in "Curling" was given the prize for best actor, while Jasna Duricic won the Best Actress honor for her work in "Beli Belisvet" (White White World) from Serbian director Oleg Novkovic.
The top prize carries an award of 90,000 Swiss francs ($85,000), while the Jury Prize and Best Director award are worth 30,000 Swiss francs ($28,000) each.
Last year, it was "She, a Chinese" from Xiaolu Guo, that won the Golden Leopard. Combined with "Han Jia," this marks the first time since 1995-96 when the same country won back-to-back Golden Leopards. French films "Rai" from Thomas Gilou and Claire Denis' "Nenette et Boni" were the last combo to pull off the feat.
Also announced Saturday was the prize in the Filmmakers of the Present Competition, won by "Paraboles" from France's Emmanuelle Demoris; the prize for Best Short Film to "A History of Mutual Respect" from Portugal's Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt; and the award for Best First Feature to "Foreign Parts," a Franco-American co-production from Verena Paravel and JP Sniadecki.
Saturday was the closing day for the festival, which got underway August 4. The award ceremony was followed by the world premiere of "Sommervogel" (Little Paradise), a first feature film from 64-year-old Swiss director Paul Riniker, a veteran of more than 70 documentaries.
Saturday also saw the closing of the Open Doors co-production laboratory, which focused on films from Central Asia, and the final screenings of the well-received Ernst Lubitsch retrospective.
Festival officials said attendance levels were near record highs despite several rainy or drizzly evenings that limited the appeal of the festival's famous Piazza Grande venue. The official totals from the festival are set to be released in the coming days. 
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