Originally published in the Locarno in Los Angeles 2017 program
Welcome to Locarno Festival in Los Angeles. We at Acropolis Cinema hope this is the first of many editions, establishing a new way to see and enjoy the latest, most inventive international cinema that the city’s audiences may not otherwise have a chance to experience on the big screen.
We want to thank the Swiss Consulate General of Los Angeles and Locarno Festival for their crucial support, without which this festival would be impossible. We also want to thank our many sponsors for their support: UBS, The Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, MUBI, IMA, Goethe Institut, Gottardo, Nespresso, Switzerland Global Enterprise, Ticino Province. Also, a big shout-out to additional support from the South East European Festival, Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Qatar, the Embassies of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Honorary Consulate of Montenegro and the Consulate Generals in Los Angeles of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Romania.
This festival was inspired by three things. First, Locarno Festival itself, one of the world’s finest film festivals based in the city of Locarno, located in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino. Despite the fact that it’s turning 70 years old this year, Locarno is more spry than ever, continuing its mission of presenting bold work by a new generation of filmmakers from all corners of the world, many of them typically overlooked by the corporate world of commercial cinema. It was the first European festival to screen films from mainland China, and was a key launch to the new careers of directors Stanley Kubrick, Claire Denis, Raúl Ruiz, Alain Tanner, Glauber Rocha, Abbas Kiarostami, Milagros Mumenthaler (here this year with her The Idea of a Lake), Spike Lee, Valerie Massadian, Terrence Davies, Pedro Costa, Andrea Staka, Béla Tarr, Aleksandr Sokurov, Clara Law, Marco Bellocchio, Jim Jarmusch, and Gus Van Sant, among many others. With its keen eye on cinema’s future, Locarno is also home to reliably vast and comprehensive retrospective surveys and screenings, making it one of the most diverse and balanced of film festival programs.
Locarno is a crucial spark for the monthly programming of Acropolis Cinema, an independently owned and operated screening series and microcinema dedicated to bringing classic and contemporary experimental films to screens across Los Angeles. Since its start in January 2016, Acropolis’ schedule has been chock-full of films that premiered in Locarno, including Hong Sangsoo’s Right Now, Wrong Then, Mauro Herce’s Dead Slow Ahead, Jose Luis Guerin’s The Academy of Muses, Isiah Medina’s 88:88, and Bi Gan’s Kaili Blues. In many ways, we at Acropolis have been presenting Locarno in Los Angeles long before this festival’s first edition.
But it’s in Los Angeles’ past that LoLA also finds inspiration. The city’s first important film festival, FILMEX, had a great idea in 1974: import the entire program of Cannes’ Critics Week—a young and radical counter-program to the old, establishment Cannes Film Festival—and screen it at LACMA. Every screening, including a Swiss masterpiece by Daniel Schmid, La Paloma, was a sell-out. This stunning success was never repeated. But it should have been. And now, LoLA is here to revive the idea, in new form at the Downtown Independent theater.
Locarno in Los Angeles arrives at a moment when we’re hearing the latest repetition of the ridiculous “Death of Cinema” arguments in social media and other arenas, and when entertainment journalism is reporting that the movies are going to hell because of corporate cinema’s outdated models of showing movies—that, somehow, the movies will be rescued when we can all watch them on phones and tablets as soon as possible. These are dead-end ideas, and miss the point. Cinema is obviously not dying, and obviously best seen in a cinema. It is what’s not being shown that matters more than anything else. Los Angeles is regularly deprived of many important and vital new movies every year by bold and risk-taking young filmmakers around the world. Just look at the last seven winners of Locarno’s top Golden Leopard prize: Ralitza Petrova, Hong, Lav Diaz, Albert Serra, Jean-Claude Brisseau, Mumenthaler, and Li Hongqi. Few of them have ever had a significant festival screening or more than a one-week run in a commercial cinema here. While the city sits at the world’s leading edge in new developments in painting, sculpture, literature, performance, dance, music, architecture, digital art, and food, it remains out of the loop on the latest in the art form it fostered into a global influence: Cinema.
And, here’s the hard truth: The city doesn’t even really know it. Even the city’s awareness of Locarno—famous across Europe and the cinema world—is narrow and limited. The solution: bring Locarno to Los Angeles audiences, and let you see for yourselves. Locarno in Los Angeles shares a mission with Locarno Festival to defend cinema, the possibilities, the capacities, the boundaries (and beyond), the challenges of cinema that are pressed by its most daring artists. Los Angeles has always been, and thrives at being, an artistic frontier. It’s this frontier where Locarno’s kind of cinema lives, the kind that’s worth defending.
Have a great festival
Artistic Directors, Locarno in Los Angeles/Acropolis Cinema