Swiss Consul General Emil Wyss has the complaisant good cheer one would expect of a diplomat. At a press conference in his Los Angeles home, he notes that the city and Locarno have more in common than people may expect. “They both have palm trees!” he says with a grin. The lakeside city in the south of Switzerland is better-known to cinephiles as the home of one of the oldest, most venerated film festivals in the world. Now, a joint venture between the Locarno Festival and LA’s Acropolis Cinema is bringing some of the festival’s choice programming to Southern California.
The inaugural iteration of Locarno in Los Angeles will take place over the weekend of April 21-23 at the Downtown Independent cinema. The program consists of 10 films that played at last year’s festival, curated by Acropolis founder Jordan Cronk and LA critic Robert Koehler. Eight of those films remain without U.S. distribution at this point, and this will be the first time all of them will have played in LA, which has historically struggled to give arthouse fare theatrical runs on the same level as New York. Addressing this gap was one of Cronk’s concerns when he began Acropolis last year, and Locarno in LA is a natural extension of his mission to bring more festival favorites to the West Coast.
Speaking of the mini-festival’s inception last year, Cronk explains: “Bob [Koelher] came to me when I was starting Acropolis. I had scheduled five films that were all Locarno, and had in mind around five more. The amount of quality films that come out of there — boundary-pushing films not necessarily embraced by wider audiences – is staggering … And we didn’t have any boundaries placed on us … Once we decided to program LA premieres only, it came down to 10 films. Jim from the Downtown Indie was onboard right away. First time we had a meeting, he said yes.”
Koehler elaborates on Locarno in LA’s thesis: “We’re hoping to change the climate of distribution. It’s insufficient as far as what they allow for out here. I don’t think it falls on anyone’s shoulders, exactly. The kinds of films that are being written about in publications and showing at film festivals have difficulty showing here vs in New York … Festivals have become an alternative distribution resource outside of traditional theatrical runs. The vast majority of the films we’re showing lack distribution, and that’s pointed, deliberate. That’s something I want to underline: All of these films should have distribution, all of them should be available.”
The program for the exhibition is as follows (and links to our reviews where available):
All the Cities of the North (Dane Komljen)
The Challenge (Yuri Ancarani)
Dark Skull (Kiro Russo)
Destruction Babies (Mariko Testuya)
The Dreamed Path (Angela Schanelec)
Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro) (Opening night film)
The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)
The Idea of a Lake (Milagros Mumenthaler)
Rat Film (Theo Anthony) (Centerpiece selection)
Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude) (Closing night film)
Tickets go on sale March 17. Wyss anticipates that Locarno in Los Angeles will become an annual event in perpetuity. For the sake of arthouse cinema in the city, here’s hoping he’s right.
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