The great Italian neorealism passes through here. The year is 1946, first edition of the Festival. Among the 15 movies in program, there is also Roma città aperta. At the award ceremony the Jury — there is also a 25-years-old Alida Valli — ignores it, just like it will do the very next year with Paisà. Only on the third attempt, with Germania anno zero, in 1948, Roberto Rossellini is awarded with the Grand Prix. It is the same year in which Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di biciclette only wins the Special prize of the jury, raising discontent and protests.
It is 1960. The arrival in Locarno of Marlene Dietrich, along with Joseph von Sternberg, is a vision. All eyes are on her, and the paparazzi even follow the diva when she wants to shop on the lakeside of Ascona.
Then comes the night, and her entrance in the park of the Grand Hotel for the evening screening of the film, suddenly becomes a core scene in the history of the Festival.
It is August 2nd, 1973. One day after its world premiere in America, Piazza Grande hosts one of those movies destined to strongly enter the cinema history. American Graffiti, the cult movie directed by George Lucas. A great generational representation which finds an ideal support in the songs of the soundtrack selected by Walter Murch, the great movie editor and sound designer who has been awarded in 2015 with the Vision Award Nescens.
This is his first overseas trip. It is his graduation thesis and, consequently, also his first feature film: Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. In other words, the story of a barber shop which is actually a front of clandestine betting. It is the movie which made the world aware of Spike Lee and was awarded with the Pardo d’oro in 1983.
The year is 2005. Suddenly, Wim Wenders grabs the microphone and says (in Italian): “Everybody is asking me what does it mean to receive a Pardo d'onore. Well, now I know: I have become a pardo too”. At the same time he lifts up his sweater and, surprisingly, shows a leopard-skin t-shirt. The consequent applause is still one of the longest recorded in the history of the Festival.
Piazza Grande as a launching pad for movies which then take off, and fly up to the statue of the Academy Awards. For Locarno, 2006 is really a year of grace. First, the great spy-thriller film Das Leben der Anderen, which leaves thousands of people in the audience breathless; then comes the grotesque soul of the American comedy Little Miss Sunshine, offering plenty of contagious laughter. A few months later, both movies are awarded by the Academy: the first one as Best Foreign Language film; the second one for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin).
The year is 2013, and a tornado called Werner Herzog brings great cinema and the spirit of adventure to Locarno. Not only on the big screen of Piazza Grande, the ideal background for giving life (once again) to the titanic enterprise of Fitzcarraldo. The contamination is everywhere: the Masterclass, directed by the Pardo d'onore Swisscom, is crowded by more than one thousand cinema lovers.
One of the great guests of the 68th Festival del film Locarno: Edward Norton
He has been awarded in Piazza Grande with the Excellence Award Moët & Chandon. But he had already been there – or better, on the big screen, at least. In 2001, during the screening of Frank Oz’ The Score. A movie in which Norton is a member of a gang of remarkable thieves: with him, shoulder to shoulder, there were Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando.