Locarno Fest Gives Top Prize to Eerie 'Story of My Death'

Vicenç Altaió as Casanova in "Story of My Death"

The Catalan-language drama was one of the best known titles heading into the fest, and it was tabbed a Golden Leopard favorite after its premiere last week.

ROME – The much-heralded Historia de la Meva Mort (Story of My Death), Alberto Serra’s eerie and dreamlike interpretation of famous 18th-century Venetian libertine and adventurer Giacomo Casanova, won the Locarno Film Festival’s main prize on Saturday.

The Catalan-language film, which had been rumored to be headed to Cannes earlier in the year, created a buzz after premiering last Tuesday and was immediately tapped as one of the favorites for the prestigious Golden Leopard honor.

LOCARNO REVIEW: The Story of My Death (Historia de la meva mort) 

It was the first time a Spanish film ever won the top award in the festival's 66-year history.

Combined with E Agora? Lembra-Me (What Now? Remind Me), the vibrant tale of director Joaquim Pinto’s battle against HIV and Hepatitis C -- which won Locarno’s jury prize -- it made for an Iberian sweep for the fest’s top film awards.

Serra is from Spain; Pinto from Portugal.

The Leopard award for Best Director went to South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo for U Ri Sunhi (Our Sunhi). The film was the first-ever Locarno competition entry for the prolific 52-year-old.

The acting prizes went to Brie Larson for her work in Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12, one of only two non-world premieres in competition, while Fernando Bacilio won the Best Actor honor for thriller El Mudo.

Short Term 12 and Tableau Noir, from Swiss director Yves Yersin, were given “special mentions” by the jury, which was headed by director Lavrente Indico Diaz, from the Philippines. 

Gabrielle, a drama about a musically gifted girl with a neurological disorder from Quebec director Louise Archambault, won the audience award for films that screened in the festival’s famous Piazza Grande venue.

The award for Best First Film went to Mouton from French directors Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone. The film, which screened in theCineasti del Presente section for emerging filmmakers with their first or second film, also won that section’s jury prize.

STORY: Swiss Film 'The Blocher Experience' Brings Controversy to Locarno 

The main Cineasti del Presente honor went to Manakamana from Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez. The film tells the story about a pilgrimage to a Nepal temple. 

The 66th edition of the lakeside Swiss festival was under the artistic direction of Carlo Chatrian for the first time this year. The event began on August 7.

Twitter: @EricJLyman