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I’m going to try to extract from my internal film of the Festival those snapshots that have most impressed themselves on my memory, knowing that others will emerge gradually over the weeks to come.

The first scene sees a shot of a great man, walking slowly. But when he starts speaking in front of a piazza full of people, all doubts vanish: he is the “Lord of the cinema” who will begin my first Festival. Sir Christopher Lee says: “I’m old”. I think of all the teachers who have brought me this far. And I thank them silently. All the people in the Piazza Grande sit silently too, each word amazing and entrancing them. Applause bursts out at the end in a deluge. Shortly thereafter, as if in retaliation, a deluge starts to fall. This time, no metaphor, but actual rain. A vast crowd of courageous souls resists, staying there to enjoy the film under the downpour.

“I’m not saying it out of flattery, or because I’m here, but Locarno remains the only festival that can do honour to the art of the cinema.” So says Otar Iosseliani.

Some women have enough charm to make any gesture elegant. Others have the gift of simplicity. And then there are those – as precious as they are rare – who possess both qualities. Like Jacqueline Bisset.

At dinner, she tells me of the film she’s shooting with Abel Ferrara, another Locarno visitor this year. “He’s a director who knows how to look, and he risks so much! He changes perspective for every scene and for each one he allows himself only one take.”

At the Forum, Sergio Castellitto describes how as a young actor he found himself on set with living legend Marcello Mastroianni. The shot was framed as a close up on the great actor. Sergio was supposed to pass a watch close to his face, but in front of Mastroianni his hand was shaking and the watch kept clinking. Suddenly, the noise stopped. Another hand had stayed his trembling, remaining out of shot and without interrupting the take. Castellitto turned, looked, and understood...

We select the films in the dark of our rooms. We watch them, imagining how they will be received. Until that moment we cradle them as though they were newborns to be sent to sleep. Then comes the moment of the encounter with the audience, and when it happens that the film is greeted by an ovation, you have the indescribable joy of a father watching his son walk. I have been lucky because during this edition, a number of films have been very well received, while several have really taken flight. I’m thinking of the 10 minutes of applause for Short Term 12 (four sold-out screenings) or the standing ovations for Los insólitos peces gato, Roxanne and The Special Need.

If a thousand people come to listen to a masterclass like the one held by Werner Herzog here at Locarno, then you understand that the strength of a Festival lies also in the encounters it facilitates. When the great German director then steps up to the stage of the Piazza Grande and, upsetting a programme meticulously arranged that day, decides, for the first time, to share the prize with his cameramen, Zeitlinger and Klausmann, “his eyes”, it tells you that Locarno is truly a fantastic place of participation and sharing.

Carlo Chatrian
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