Gitai tapped for Locarno lifetime honor


ROME -- Hard-nosed Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai will be given the prestigious Leopard of Honor prize for lifetime achievement at the 61st annual Locarno Film Festival.

The four-time Palme d'Or nominee is best known for such powerful works as 1999's "Kadosh," about two sisters' clashes with orthodox Jewish society; 2000's "Kippur," a drama based on the 1973 Yom Kippur War; and as one of the 11 directors behind "11'09'01," the controversial Venice UNESCO award winner released on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

A well-known presence in Locarno, Gitai served on the festival's jury in 1992 and his polarizing documentary "Zirat Ha'Rezach" (The Arena of Murder), which explored the aftermath of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, premiered there in 1996.

"Amos Gitai occupies a very special place in the landscape of contemporary cinema," Locarno artistic director Frederic Maire said. "Every one of his films confronts us with the infinite complexity of reality."

The prize ceremony will be one of the main events of the Aug. 6-16 festival, which takes place in the lakeside Swiss village of Locarno.

Previous Leopard of Honor winners include Bernardo Bertolucci, Terry Gilliam, Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, Alexander Sokurov and, last year, China's Hsiao-hsien Hou.