Since it began in 1946, Locarno Film Festival has been a destination to see the boldest, most avant-garde and innovative filmmaking. Every year, the festival's distinctive black-and-yellow Leopard theme imprints on the city for an intensive 11-day celebration of cinema. This year’s 76th edition was a special one. Of 5,520 submissions to be screened at Locarno, 202 were accepted. An astounding three of these films were made by members of the Catalyst community.
Often regarded as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, Locarno is committed to showcasing a diverse range of films from various countries and genres and has garnered respect from both the industry and the general public. We’re thrilled that movie enthusiasts, filmmakers and critics from all over the world had the chance to see “Du bist so wunderbar” by Film Production Programme Lead Leandro Goddinho and Paulo Menezes, “On the Go” by Film Production and Creative Production (Film) MA tutor Maria Gisèle Royo and Julia de Castro and “Autoerótica” by Creative Production (Film) MA student Andrea Hoyos Valderrama.
For us, this is huge news. Having the same amount of films being screened as China or the Netherlands – and in fact more films screened than most nations – leaves us dizzy with pride at the amazing work coming from our film school and the directors working within it. As most of the cast and crew of “Du bist so wunderbar” were Catalyst alumni and tutors, we took the opportunity to send the crew along to the festival in Switzerland in August to join the audience of over 145,000 people.
"Du bist so wunderbar" wins a Pardino d’argento
On the final day of the festival, it was announced that Leandro and Paulo’s intimate portrayal of Queer immigrant life in Europe won the Pardino d’argento for the Pardi di Domani International Competition section!
Stills from Du bist so wunderbar, 2023
Directed by Leandro Goddinho and Paulo Menezes
The Queer tragicomedy set in Berlin follows Brazilian gay immigrant Edu (Murillo Basso) who was just kicked out of his place struggles to find a place to live while his personal life falls apart. Set on the day thousands of people are protesting against unaffordable rents in Berlin, the short film follows Edu on a journey through the streets, the chaos of house-hunting and the gay cruising underground culture in Berlin.
Cineuropa described the film as both "a fascinating character study" and an "indictment on the solipsism of much of modern society as well as the disparate and often abusive power structures that still exist. It’s another daring and provocative piece of work that lingers in the mind". Eddie Bertozzi, one of the Locarno programmers and head of Pardi di domani Selection Committee praised the short film as "explosive filmmaking, a tragicomical tour de force following a young immigrant in today's Berlin who, in the heyday of the housing crisis, struggles to exist among social inequalities and cultural stereotypes”. Brazilian press hailed the film as “poised to become one of the most celebrated shorts of the year” with “lots and lots of potential to become an amazing feature long narrative”.
"In the realm of filmmaking, having your movie selected for a prestigious festival like Locarno is already a much-desired opportunity", said Leandro, when we caught up with him back in the Funkhaus corridors. "Winning a Leopard Award is a huge surprise, especially for our very low-budget project and given the presence of numerous high-budget films in the same category.”
"This award is a reminder that storytelling transcends circumstances and budgets. It's a testament to the fact that powerful narratives can emerge from dedication and creativity. This is a message I consistently impart to my students in class: there's no high-priced camera that can create a great film on its own. What truly resonates with audiences is the compelling power of storytelling and the artistic choices we make."
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"This award is a reminder that storytelling transcends circumstances and budgets. It's a testament to the fact that powerful narratives can emerge from dedication and creativity."
– Leandro Goddinho
Paulo talking on stage during a live Q&A after one of three screenings
Leandro holding a Silver Leopard
Photo by Locarno Film Festival
Our crew at Locarno
J Frisch-Wang, 1st Assistant Director
"On set we had a lot of company moves, which would typically stress me out, but since we had such a small crew and minimal setup, it was fun and easy. It was very special to be able to spend time with my close friends, who I met at Catalyst. Film brought us together when we first met and to be able to travel with them to a film festival to celebrate a film we all worked on together was such a blessing."
Sara Russo, Production Manager
"We had very little money for this very unique little script Leandro and Paulo wrote, but that made it very interesting for me. I had to use my inventiveness to find ways to make the project come to light. Overall, my experience at the Locarno Film Festival was a whirlwind of emotions, conversations and cinematic exploration. Winning the Pardino d’Argento was definitely the icing on the cake."
Álfgerður Malmquist, Director of Photography
"Running around Berlin with a close crew and also close to no equipment gave me a certain freedom with the camera, which doesn't come often. I'd describe the three shooting days as fun, fast, and chaotic, just as the tone of the film. As I sat together with the crew during the premier, I could feel our anticipation and nervousness. This tension quickly changed into a sense of relief as the audience immediately embraced the film."
Zoe Valentini, Art Director
"I had to make sure the visual elements of the movie were coherent with the directors’ vision. We didn’t want to make a glossy film about a poor person, but instead to show a raw side of living in Berlin. We used our own apartments and added very little set design, so I mostly focused on costumes and props. I also had a speaking role, which was fun, but very awkward, especially when I ended up seeing myself on the big screen in Locarno."
Carolina Cardoso, Editor
"The festival was undeniably incredible, and the presence of my friends, whom I hadn't seen in a long time, made it all more special. Reconnecting with them added a unique and heartwarming dimension to watching our screening for the first time. It held immense personal significance for me to be part of this festival, allowing me to witness the remarkable work being accomplished by filmmakers. The film selection at Locarno stands out as one of the most exceptional I've encountered at any festival."
Thank you to this special crew of Film Production alumni for their incredible input into bringing the film to life as well as documenting it in the joyful vlog below. They were our eyes and ears on the ground for the festival, seeing over 13 screenings, two panels, and a couple of parties and red carpets along the way.
"On the Go" gets a special mention
A huge round of applause for Creative Production (Film) MA tutor Maria and co-director Julia, who's film which received a special mention from the Junior Jury. The film questions the choice of motherhood from the perspective of Milagros (Julia De Castro) while Jonathan (Omar Ayuso), seeks solace in Grindr in order to overcome abandonment issues. "On the Go" is a delirious road movie full of music, where a mysterious mermaid (Chacha Huang) with a magic crown will set the course of the journey.
Praising the bold and unconventional approaches to narrative used in the feature length film and it’s “intersectional look at the concept of identity and desire” while avoiding classifications of genre of label, International Cinephile Society gave the film ★★★★½ / ★★★★★. Also holding the "both hilarious and militant" film in high regard, Cineeuropa felt empowered by the queer, feminist road movie "which urges us to tackle life head-on without fear of the future". Spanish speaking Ostro Cines said "Un film estimulante y abierto al descubrimiento. Un descubrimiento que puede llegar, incluso, con la forma de una canción frente a la inmensidad del océano." ["A stimulating film open to discovery. A discovery that can even come in the form of a song in front of the immensity of the ocean".] Since the international premier at Locarno, the On the Go producers Jur and Jur have begun distribution in DACH countries and Taiwan.
Julia De Castro, Omar Ayuso and Maria Gisèle Royo by Locarno Film Festival
“While the story being told is fascinating on its own terms, it is the execution that makes On the Go memorable.”
– International Cinephile Society
Still from On the Go, 2023
Directed by Maria Gisèle Royo and Julia De Castro
On the Go poster at Locarno
The team on stage during a Q&A
Maria Gisèle Royo, Omar Ayuso and Julia De Castro by Locarno Film Festival
Andrea Hoyos Valderrama, who just graduated Creative Production (Film) MA, screened her film "Autoerótica" as part of the Open Doors Screenings selection and followed it with a live Q&A. The film is about Bruna, a teenager exploring her sexuality. Bruna starts a relationship through a dating website that challenges her youthful spirit and confronts the freedom of her body. A huge congratulations to Andrea, a member of the Locarno Open Doors Directors Club, who has been making waves with her productions around the world – as discussed in this recent Variety article.
Stills from Autoerótica, 2021
Directed by Andrea Hoyos Valderrama
Andrea on stage during a Q&A session
With a rich history, Locarno festival has presented features and short films by many international directors including Stanley Kubrick, Jim Jarmusch, Ang Lee, Claire Denis and now we’re proudly adding Leandro Goddinho, María Gisèle Royo and Andrea Hoyos Valderrama to this list. We're excited to see what comes next.
Beaming smiles from Leandro, Maria and Andrea at Locarno