Locarno dusts off directors' chairs


LONDON -- Now in its 60th year, the Locarno International Film Festival is taking a long look at its past with a special sidebar event that will highlight about 18 directors who got their start at the lakeside Swiss village.

One of the world's oldest film festivals, Locarno has long been known as a discovery event, one that gives exposure to directors who often go on to bigger and better things. This year, to honor its anniversary, many will return to the famous Piazza Grande and introduce the films that brought them originally.

As such, the streets again will be visited by France's Claude Chabrol, who first came in 1958 with "Le beau serge"; Italian Marco Bellocchio, whose 1965 film "Fists in Pocket" screened in Locarno; Chilean director Raul Ruiz, who first made the trip in 1969 with "Three Sad Tigers"; the U.K.'s Mike Leigh, who was in Locarno to introduce "Bleak Moments" in 1971; Switzerland's own Fredi Murer, who brought "Alpine Fire" in 1985; and Egyptian director Yousri Nasrallah, who came for the premiere of "Marcides" in 1993.

"This is a great way for Locarno to honor its past during a key anniversary," second-year fest director Frederic Maire said in an interview. "What is nice is that so many people were so eager to come back to where it started for them."

Although the sidebar -- titled Back to Locarno -- was meant as a one-off event, Maire said that the interest it has generated has him thinking of promoting a smaller version at future festivals.

"There's no reason we can't honor one returning director every year," Maire said. "There were some who couldn't make it this year, and new ones being discovered in every festival."

On the agenda for this year's edition, set for Aug. 1-11, are several green directors, among them Anthony Hopkins, slated to come in conjunction with "Slipstream," the Oscar-winning actor's third directorial effort and first screenwriting credit.