Locarno Film Fest: 'Godless' Wins Golden Leopard

Locarno Film Festival
Ralitza Petrova with the Golden Leopard for 'Godless'

Bulgarian filmmaker Ralitza Petrova took home the grand prize from the Swiss festival.

The 69th Locarno International Film Festival has wrapped up after a successful two weeks that showed 279 films at the Swiss event. This year, the international lineup gave voice to a number of new female filmmakers. Of the 17 world premieres in competition for the main prize, eight were directed by women.

The international jury, led by Mexican director Arturo Ripstein, recognized one of those titles, giving Bulgaria’s Ralitza Petrova the Golden Leopard for her first feature, Godless. The film was well reviewed among international critics for revealing the underbelly of Bulgaria’s crime circuit.

The pic’s lead Irena Ivanova also took home the best actress award for her performance as Gana, a drug-addicted nurse to the elderly who sells identity cards with her boyfriend on the black market.

Scarred Hearts, inspired by the 1937 Max Blecher novel and directed by Romanian helmer Radu Jude, picked up the special jury prize. And Portuguese art house filmmaker Joao Pedro Rodrigues won best director honors for The Ornithologist, a contemporary retelling of Saint Anthony of Lisbon. The Hollywood Reporter's review said the film “puts the ‘vision’ in visionary.”  

Andrzej Seweryn received the nod for best actor for The Last Family; Tizza Covi’s Mister Universo took home a special mention prize.

In the "Filmmakers of the Present" section, the jury, led by director Dario Argento, awarded Eduardo Williams with the Golden Leopard for The Human Surge, an exploratory film following young characters across Buenos Aires, Maputo and Mozambique.

The special jury prize went to The Challenge by Yuri Ancarani; Japan’s Mariko Tetsuya won the best emerging director prize; and a special mention went to Kiro Russo for Viejo Calavera

The festival's public prize went to Cannes' Palme d'Or winner I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach. And the award for best first feature went to The Future Perfect by Nele Wohlatz of Argentina. 

Audience attendance for the festival was high, in line with previous editions. Highlights included 8,000 people filling the Piazza Grande to see award honorees including Harvey Keitel and Bill Pullman.

"This, the 69th edition, gambled on a number of fronts — from a more adventurous program on the Piazza to the competitions that gave pride of place to young filmmakers," concluded artistic director Carlo Chatrian. "The positive response, from both audiences and critics alike, has encouraged us to continue with this approach."

Chatrian is confirmed to lead the festival through 2020.