5 to See at Locarno

The 74th Locarno Film Festival has just got underway, and the Swiss-based gathering is back to where it belongs – in person, with some wonderful open-air screenings hosted in the atmospheric Piazza Grande. ASFF singles out five must-see films playing at this year’s festival.


A biopic of Aretha Franklin – it comes complete with the clever tagline ‘Find Out What It Means’ – this glitzy Hollywood effort stars Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) as the soul-singer extraordinaire. Tracing her life from her time in her father’s choir to international acclaim, the film comes directed by Liesl Tommy, making her feature debut after a career in epispdoc television (The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones). Co-starring Forest Whitaker, this looks like an awards-magnet.


Recently unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival, Gaspar Noé’s Vortex may have a title that sounds in keeping with his more outré films like Enter the Void and Irréversible. But this is the most mature film of the Argentinean-born, French-based filmmaker’s career. A split-screen experience, this tale of an ageing couple – one of whom is sliding into dementia – will draw inevitable comparisons to Michael Haneke’s Amour, but there is enough originality and poignancy here for it to be celebrated in its own right.


Director Stefan Ruzowitzky made a splash a few years back with The Counterfeiters, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. His latest film is a period serial killer tale set in 1920. When ex-prisoner Peter (Murathan Muslu) returns to Vienna following incarceration during The Great War, he discovers a comrade has been brutally murdered. When more bodies start appearing, he takes it upon himself to hunt out the killer. A film about “toxic masculinity”, according to Ruzowitzskty, this demands attention.

Ida Red

According to writer-director John Swab, his crime film Ida Red is inspired by such classics as Thief, Cruising, Hardcore and Heat. Frankly, that’s good enough for us. Oscar-winner Melissa Leo plays Ida ‘Red’ Walker, a career criminal locked away in prison on a 25-year sentence in Oklahoma while also battling a terminal illness. Co-starring Josh Hartnett as her son Wyatt, who has kept the ‘family business’ ticking over all this time, it also comes complete with such wonderful character actors as Beau Knapp and Mark Boone Jr.


South Korean cinema is just going from strength to strength these past few years. Kim Ji-hoon’s latest Sinkhole comes complete with a fascinating premise: a blue-collar man (Kim Sung-kyun) and his family move into a house after years of scrimping and saving. But during his housewarming party, a night of torrential rain, the entire abode is swallowed up in a giant sinkhole. It’s not just a disaster movie, the director has said, but a film about community. “When faced with a disastrous situation, it is ultimately the people that feel and overcome it.”

The Locarno Film Festival runs until August 14th. Click here for more details.

Words: James Mottram