The world premiere of Scottish director Colm McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic thriller “The Girl With All the Gifts”, starring Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and newcomer Sennia Nanua, will open the 69th Locarno Film Festival, Variety reports.
The buzzed-about zombie pic, which unfolds in an underground bunker where children are being examined by scientists hoping to find a cure for a fungal spore that has infected the planet, will kick off the Swiss fest dedicated to indie cinema on August 3. “Girl” will screen on Locarno’s 8,000-seat Piazza Grande venue with talents Arterton and Nanua, who is 13, in tow. Nanua plays a uniquely gifted child in the lead role.
Based on the novel by M.R. Carey, “Girl” is financed by the BFI (British Film Institute), Creative England, and Altitude Film. Camille Gatin and Angus Lamont produced. U.S. rights were acquired in Cannes by Saban Films. Warned Bros. is releasing in the U.K.
“Aside from how well the film is made – and its great cast – we were impressed by the way the zombie theme, which is ultimately about ‘other people’, is handled in a political sense,” artistic director Carlo Chatrian enthused.
The Locarno director explained that he sees “an underlying will [in the film] not necessarily to welcome ‘other people’, but at least to understand them.”
Chatrian also underlined that this year the fest “is returning to its original spirit of promoting young directors.”
He noted that in a break with Locarno’s past two editions, which opened with films by “known masters” Luc Besson and Jonathan Demme, “Gifts” is directed by the younger and relatively obscure McCarthy, best known for his work on British TV shows “Peaky Blinders,” “Sherlock” and “Endeavour.”
The Piazza Grande section will also feature a screening of Cannes Palme d’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake,” with director Ken Loach attending, and also of Paul Greengrass’ “Jason Bourne,” sans talent in tow.
Piazza Grande titles will compete for the Pix du Public audience Award, and for the Variety Piazza Grande Award given by Variety critics to the best fest title launching from Europe’s largest open-air venue combining artistic excellence and commercial potential.
In line with the fest’s “young edition” spirit there are three first features screening in the main competition which comprises 17 world premiers, 8 of which directed by women, “another signal of change compared with past years,” Chatrian noted.
The “political aspect,” which Chatrian says is present throughout the lineup, crops up in the competition in works such as HBO-Europe-produced saga “The Last Family,” directed by first-timer Jan P. Matuszynski , about post-Communism changes in Poland seen through the prism of prominent Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski’s life; also in Bulgarian director Ralitza Petrova’s debut feature “Godless,” set in an old-age home in post-Communist Bulgaria where some human values have been lost; and in Anocha Suwichakornpong’s “By The Time it Gets Dark” which delves into Thailand’s totalitarianism.
The competition also includes prominent Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah’s “Brooks, Meadows and Beautiful Faces,” about a family of cooks who cater a wedding in Egypt’s countryside; Paulo Branco-produced “Jeunesse,” by French director Julien Samani, an adaptation of the Joseph Conrad story “Youth”; and Argentine director Matias Pineiero’s fourth film to riff on Skakespeare, “Hermia & Helena,” shot in New York and Buenos Aires.
Revered Mexican director Arturo Ripstein (“Deep Crimson”) will preside the main jury, while Italian horror-meister Dario Argento (“Suspiria”) will preside the jury of the fest’s Filmmakers of the Present section.
As previously announced, Locarno will be honoring American producer David Linde, who is currently CEO of Participant Media, with its Raimondo Rezzonico prize given to a producer who epitomizes the indie ethos.
U.S. “King of the B’s” Roger Corman is also expected to make the trek for a tribute, as is American avant-garde pioneer Jonas Mekas.
The fest will also be feting U.S. actor Bill Pullman for his “very diverse filmography” which ranges from the “Independence Day” films to David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and, more recently, Palestinian/American Cherien Dabis-directed drama “May in The Summer.”
Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, who died in on July 4, is being tributed with a series of shorts made during a workshop he held for film students in Cuba earlier this year. One of these, titled “Pasajera,” is directed by Kiarostami himself and probably his last work.
The fest will run August 3-13.