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Festival Focus: Locarno Film Festival

MUBI Special

“The future begins now, and Locarno will always be on the side of cinema.”

The Locarno Film Festival, taking place in a small lakeside Swiss town every August, is one of the world’s premiere venues for celebrating bold, adventurous cinema. Coinciding with the 2020 edition, which is partially disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MUBI is exclusively presenting a series of highlights from the 2019 festival.


João Nicolau Portugal, 2019

A musical comedy from Portuguese auteur João Nicolau? Sign us up. Infused with a deadpan ennui reminiscent of Aki Kaurismäki, this road trip romance takes many a twist and turn, winding up flat-out surreal. And from a-cappella to death metal: “eclectic” doesn’t begin to cover that soundtrack!

The Tree House

Minh Quý Trương Vietnam, 2019

Applying a thoughtful sci-fi premise, Minh Quý Trương’s ethnography is a rare and poetic perspective on Vietnam and its Indigenous population. Merging diary and documentary footage with an essayistic tone, the film is a vivid look at the impact of war and assimilation, and a consideration of home.


Anna Sofie Hartmann Germany, 2019

Next in our series of gems from the 2019 Locarno Film Festival is this multilayered, hybrid delicacy. Giraffe attempts to decipher the place of memory within globalization, interweaving the stories of real people affected by a construction project with a fictional ethnologist’s life and love.


Rúnar Rúnarsson Iceland, 2019

In his confidently unconventional, jigsaw-like Echo, Rúnar Rúnarsson (Sparrows) pieces together a variegated portrait of contemporary Iceland: a spectrum of assorted approaches, scenes, styles, and genres that are continually surprising yet always fascinating. A highly enjoyable and humane film.

How Fernando Pessoa Saved Portugal

Eugène Green Portugal, 2018

Continuing our spotlight on the best films that premiered at last year’s Locarno Festival—as the 2019 edition unfolds—we return to one of our perennial favorite filmmakers, Eugène Green. This witty mini-film travels to Portugal for a (real!) tale of a truly bizarre confluence of artist and brand.


Abbas Fahdel Lebanon, 2018

Iraqi-French director Abbas Fahdel surprised us by following his extraordinary nonfiction epic Homeland: Iraq Year Zero with this limpid teenage love story set in Lebanon’s stunning Kadisha Valley. It has a documentary freshness and the beautiful, archetypal simplicity of our favorite silent cinema.

Dead Horse Nebula

Tarık Aktaş Turkey, 2018

Our next Locarno highlight is Dead Horse Nebula, a film as intriguing as its title. This superb exploration of memory delves into the relationship of men and nature, reaching philosophical heights through atmospheric, deceptively anecdotal vignettes––and won Aktaş the Best Emerging Director award!


Andrea Bussmann Mexico, 2018

As a new edition of the Swiss festival begins, we’re excited to spotlight our 2018 favorites. Bussmann’s solo debut emerges as a mysterious creature: part ethnography, part legend, Fausto blurs the line between myth and reality and questions our ways of seeing—reframing Goethe’s opus along the way.

Le fort des fous

Narimane Mari France, 2017

Our second highlight from the 71st Locarno Festival is an expansive, multi-genre exploration of colonialism that connects the past to today’s migrant crisis. Madmen’s Fort is a defiant, haunting look at History: an overwhelming examination of the politics of power versus the power of utopia.


Gürcan Keltek Turkey, 2017

With Locarno opening this week we’re showcasing two genre-bending films from the festival. First is Gürcan Keltek’s evocative documentary that unexpectedly connects cosmic chaos—a gobsmacking meteor shower—and the armed conflict between Turks and Kurds, finding resonances both political and poetic.

Rio Corgo

Maya Kosa, Sérgio da Costa Switzerland, 2015

We conclude our highlights from the Locarno Film Festival with this stellar Swiss co-production. An audacious debut, it (ad)ventures into the Portuguese countryside to explore a man’s life (shot across a gorgeous landscape) in ways that go beyond the boundaries of normal documentaries.


Esen Isik Switzerland, 2015

For our final two selections of films being shown from the Locarno Film Festival come from the Swiss Panorama section, highlighting the best of recent Swiss productions. In Esen Isik’s feature debut, the Turkish director explores the tensions and passions of those who live on Istanbul’s margins.

Deux Rémi, deux

Pierre Léon France, 2015

A lightweight favorite films from Locarno last year is Russian-born Pierre Léon’s slim, comedic adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Double.” Its charming insider cast includes auteur Serge Bozon, Truffaut’s enchanting granddaughter, film historian Bernard Eisenschitz, and New Wave secret Jackie Raynal.

The Movement

Benjamín Naishtat Argentina, 2015

Up-and-coming director Benjamín Naishtat prize-winning third film is an audaciously stark and powerful tale of the Argentine frontier. In this small film with impressive ambition—and stunning black and white cinematography—Naishtat cleverly envisions a crucial moment in his nation’s history.

Los Hongos

Oscar Ruíz Navia Colombia, 2014

Each August the Swiss town of Locarno hosts a festival showing some of the year’s best discoveries. We celebrate this year’s edition with favorites, intimate and provocative, that recently premiered there, beginning with Columbian director Oscar Ruíz Navia’s follow-up to his acclaimed gem Crab Trap.

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