Rain doesn't dampen spirits at Locarno

Standing room only for 'Waitress' screening

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- With Locarno's picturesque Piazza Grande rained out for the second consecutive night, the European premiere of Adrienne Shelly's romantic comedy "Waitress" screened to an enthusiastic response in a makeshift cinema at the Fevi sports center.

Late-in-the-day thunderstorms cast a shadow over the 60th edition of the Locarno festival Tuesday and Wednesday, but big crowds still turned out for the films that were screening each night.

Tuesday's main feature, "Une Journee," a French-Swiss psychological drama from Jacob Berger, and the Wednesday screening of "Waitress" both filled the 3,500-seat Fevi.

"Waitress" is the story of a small-town waitress who gets pregnant while in a loveless relationship and subsequently falls in love with her gynecologist. The film was interrupted several times by laughter by the standing-room-only crowd.

Shelly, the film's writer-director, was murdered in New York in November, just after the film was completed. Freshman producer Michael Roiff said the film's selection for Locarno was something that wouldn't have surprised Shelly.

"When we finished the film, Adrienne said to me, 'You're going to travel the world with this film,' " Roiff said in an interview. "As I woke up this morning at a hotel in Switzerland, I realized she was right."

The screening of "Waitress" was followed by the 2000 film "A One and a Two," a tribute to Taiwanese director Edward Yang, who died June 27. It was Locarno's third tribute this year, following ones for iconic Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, both of whom died July 30.

Also Wednesday, festival organizers announced the winners of Open Doors, the co-production laboratory that this year focused on 13 films from the Middle East.

Two development and production grants were awarded to "Tanathor," from Palestine's Tawfik Abu-Wael, and "Le Chemin des Figuirs," from Syria's Meyar Al Riumi. Each film was given $43,300 for development.

Additionally, "Justice Must Be Seen," from Israel's Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, won a $13,800 development grant.

"We can see the news about what is happening in the Middle East on a daily basis," Open Doors project manager Vincenzo Bugno said. "But we deliberately wanted to avoid reducing the region's film cultures to the cliches of a purely political interpretation of reality. We believe the region needs a diversity of stories."