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Piazza Grande screening venue
Piazza Grande screening venue

The Locarno Film Festival is an annual film festival held every August in Locarno, Switzerland. Founded in 1946, it is one of the longest-running film festivals,[1] and is also known for being a prestigious platform for art house films.[2] The festival screens films in various competitive and non-competitive sections, including feature-length narrative and documentary, short, avant-garde, and retrospective programs. The Piazza Grande section is held in one of the world's largest open-air screening venues, seating 8,000 spectators.[3]

The top prize of the Festival is the Golden Leopard, awarded to the best film in the International Competition. Other awards include the Leopard of Honour for career achievement, and the Prix du Public UBS, the public choice award.


The Festival del film Locarno kicked off on 23 August 1946, at the Grand Hotel of Locarno with the screening of the movie " 'O sole mio " by Giacomo Gentilomo.[1] The first edition was organized in less than three months with a line-up of fifteen movies, mainly American and Italian, among which was Rome, Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini, And Then There Were None directed by René Clair (1945), Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder (1944) and The Song of Bernadette by Henry King (1943).

Later, the Festival del film Locarno presented movies and short movies by many international directors such as Claude Chabrol, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Verhoeven, Miloš Forman, Marco Bellocchio, Glauber Rocha, Raul Ruiz, Alain Tanner, Mike Leigh, Béla Tarr, Chen Kaige, Edward Yang, Alexandr Sokurov, Atom Egoyan, Jim Jarmusch, Ang Lee, Gregg Araki, Christoph Schaub, Catherine Breillat, Abbas Kiarostami, Gus Van Sant, Pedro Costa, Fatih Akin, Claire Denis and Kim Ki-Duk.


  • Pardo d'oro (Golden Leopard). Grand Prize of the festival, awarded by the city and region of Locarno, for the best film in the concorso internazionale (international competition), that is shared equally between the director and the producer.
  • Special Jury Prize. Prize, awarded by cities of Ascona and Losone, for the second best film in the concorso internazionale (international competition), that is shared equally between the director and the producer.
  • Leopard for Best Direction. Prize, awarded by the city and region of Locarno, for the best directed film in the concorso internazionale (international competition).
  • Leopard for Best Actress.
  • Leopard for Best Actor.
  • Swatch First Feature Awards. Prize awarded by a jury of international critics to the first works presented in the sections concorso internazionale, concorso Cineasti del presente, Fuori concorso, Signs of Life and Piazza Grande.
  • Pardo d'oro Cineasti del presente. Prize awarded to the best film of this competition, which is dedicated to first or second features.
  • Ciné+ Special Jury Prize – Cineasti del presente. The French television channel Ciné+ Club offers the broadcast rights to the winning film and guarantees the broadcast on their channel.
  • Pardo per il miglior regista emergente (Leopard for Best New Director): Prize for the best new director.
  • Pardo per la migliore opera prima (Leopard for the Best First Feature). Prize which has been awarded from 2006 to 2009 to the best first work screened in the competition concorso internazionale or concorso Cineasti del presente.
  • Pardino d'oro for the Best International Short Film – SRG SSR Prize. Prize awarded to the best short film in the international short film competition Pardi di domani.
  • Pardino d'oro for the Best Swiss Short Film – Swiss Life Prize. Prize awarded to the best short film in the national short film competition Pardi di domani.
  • Pardino d'argento SSR SRG for the international competition. Prize awarded to a film in the international competition Pardi di domani.
  • Pardino d'argento Swiss Life for the national competition. Prize awarded to a film in the national competition Pardi di domani.
  • Locarno short film nominee for the European Film Awards – Pianifica Prize. The prize, which is offered by the studio Pianifica, goes to a short film made by a European director, presented in one of the two competitions. The award includes an automatic nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards.
  • Prize for Best Swiss Newcomer. The prize provides equipment offered by Cinegrell, Visuals SA, Freestudios SA, Taurus Studio e Avant-première SA/Film Demnächst AG.
  • . The winning film will be subtitled in three central European languages. This subtitling can be inserted on film, video or DVD format.

For some 20 years now, the Pardo d'onore (Leopard of Honour, since 2009 Pardo d'onore Swisscom) has provided an opportunity to commend illustrious film directors, who embody the very idea of cinema which the festival has supported so passionately since its inception: the best of auteur films, creative and audacious, with a strong vision and a personal style, endlessly reinventing itself. Locarno is proud to number amongst recipients of the Pardo d‘onore such master filmmakers as Jacques Rivette, Manoel de Oliveira, Samuel Fuller, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard, Daniel Schmid, Ken Loach, Ermanno Olmi, Terry Gilliam, Abbas Kiarostami, Wim Wenders, Aleksandr Sokurov, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Amos Gitai, William Friedkin, Alain Tanner, Jia Zhangke, Werner Herzog, Agnès Varda, Michael Cimino and Marco Bellocchio, winners of the Vela d'argento in 1965, and Alejandro Jodorowsky in 2016.

Every year the Excellence Award, sponsored by Moët et Chandon, celebrates one or more internationally acclaimed actors or actresses, who, through their work and talent, have enriched the cinema with their unique contribution. Since 2004, the Locarno Festival has been honoured to thus pay tribute to Oleg Menshikov, Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Carmen Maura, Michel Piccoli, Toni Servillo, Chiara Mastroianni, Isabelle Huppert, Charlotte Rampling, Gael García Bernal, Victoria Abril and Sir Christopher Lee, Juliette Binoche, Giancarlo Giannini and Edward Norton. In 2016 the prize was awarded to Bill Pullman.

Wishing to highlight key figures in film and salute their courage and their ability to take a risk supporting auteurs, the Locarno Festival has already paid tribute with this award to the work of such renowned producers as Paulo Branco, Ruth Waldburger, Karl Baumgartner, Jeremy Thomas, the French collective Agat Films & Cie, Lita Stantic, Christine Vachon, Martine Marignac, Menahem Golan Mike Medavoy, Margaret Ménégoz, and, in 2014, Nansun Shi. The Best Independent Producer Award - Premio Raimondo Rezzonico was established in 2002 in memory of Raimondo Rezzonico, president of the event for almost twenty years. The Prize is offered by the city of Minusio.

The Vision Award highlights and pays tribute to creative figures from the movie industry, whose work behind the scenes has helped cinema open up to new perspectives. In 2013, the prize was given to Douglas Trumbull, master of the special effects. In 2014, the Festival awarded the Oscar prize-winner Garrett Brown, creator of the Steadicam, in 2015 Walter Murch, the triple-Oscar-winning editor and sound designer, and in 2016 the Canadian composer and conductor Howard Shore.

Prize awarded since 2009 every two years to a film personality who comes from Ticino or has been living there the past five years with an outstanding movie performance.

Named after the supporting association of the festival, the Leopard Club Award pays tribute to someone in film whose work has left a mark on the collective imagination. In 2013, the first Leopard Club Award was given to Faye Dunaway. In 2014, it was awarded to the American actress Mia Farrow. The winners of the following awards were Andy Garcia (2015), the Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli (2016), Adrien Brody (2017) and Meg Ryan (2018).

An acknowledgement reserved for personalities with a special career in the world of movies.

Since 2011 the prize is awarded to film personalities with an extraordinary career. Throughout the years it was presented to film legends such as Harrison Ford (2011), Alain Delon (2012), Jacqueline Bisset (2013), Armin Mueller-Stahl (2014) and Harvey Keitel (2016).

The official jury is not the only one to hand out prizes at the festival. Every night, the audience in Piazza Grande is on jury service, voting to decide the winner of the Prix du public UBS. Previous winners of the Prix du Public UBS have included films such as Bend it like Beckham, The Syrian Bride, The Lives of Others, Monsieur Lazhar, Lore, Gabrielle, Schweizer Helden and I, Daniel Blake in 2016.

The Variety Piazza Grande Award is awarded by a jury of several of the American trade paper's critics who attend Locarno. It goes to a film screened in the Piazza Grande programme as a world or international première. The prize recognises a film that stands out for both its artistic qualities and its potential for theatrical release. The award is intended to assist the international career of the selected film, thanks to Variety's connections with the film industry and its authority within the sector.

The Prize is awarded by a jury of international critics to the first works presented in the sections concorso internazionale, concorso Cineasti del presente, Fuori concorso, Signs of Life and Piazza Grande.

Direction and management

Artistic Directors:

  • 1946–1958: Riccardo Bolla
  • 1960–1965: Vinicio Beretta
  • 1966: Sandro Bianconi
  • 1967–1970: Sandro Bianconi, Freddy Buache
  • 1971: Commission of direction, composed of seven members from Ticino
  • 1972–1977: Moritz de Hadeln
  • 1978–1981: Jean-Pierre Brossard
  • 1982–1991: David Streiff
  • 1992–2000: Marco Müller
  • 2000–2005: Irene Bignardi
  • 2005–2009: Frédéric Maire
  • 2010–2012: Olivier Père
  • 2012–2018: : Carlo Chatrian[4]
  • Since December 2018: Lili Hinstin[5]


  • 1946–1955: Camillo Beretta
  • 1957–1962: Enrico Franzioni
  • 1963–1968: Fernando Gaja
  • 1970–1980: Luciano Giudici
  • 1981–1999: Raimondo Rezzonico
  • Since 2000: Marco Solari

Chief Operating Officers:

  • 2006–2013: Marco Cacciamognaga
  • 2013–2017: Mario Timbal
  • Since August 2017: Raphaël Brunschwig
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