The Locarno Academy Confronts the Future of Criticism

·3-min read

For the tenth time in 11 years, the Locarno Film Festival is hosting 10 international film critics from various stages of development during the 10 days of the A-list Swiss festival.

Coming from places as far from the Swiss resort town as Bangalore, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro and Jakarta, and from an even more varied matrix of backgrounds, disciplines, writing styles, and interests, participants in the anniversary edition of the Critics Academy will have the chance to interact face-to-face with a wealth of major critics, programmers, and filmmakers in attendance at Locarno.

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Returning after one aborted edition in the first year of the pandemic and another for which there was no public call for applications, Locarno’s incubator for aspiring professional critics takes place once again in the midst of an extraordinarily trying moment both for the art and commerce of cinema but also, perhaps even more acutely, for writing about it.

While it is easier than ever to connect across continents, to access disparate films once far out of reach, and to freely publish one’s own writing online, the professional dimension of the art form Manny Farber once called “the most perfect imaginable” remains highly stratified, underpaid, non-unionised, and fatally subject to the whims of an ever-shifting, atomised global film culture.

The participants this year are Dini Adanurani (Indonesia), Emily Jourdan (Switzerland), Laura Staab (United Kingdom), Aiman Rizvi (Pakistan), Keva York (Australia), Sona Karapoghosyan (Armenia), Gabriel Linhares Falcão (Brazil), Manel Domíguez (Spain), Andrew Northrup (United Kingdom) and Srikanth Srinivasan (India).

Together they reflect the necessity of adapting to this world: Almost all of them also work as curators, translators, are at advanced levels of their studies, or simply sing for their supper through non-cinematic means, turning to the cinema only in their spare time.

And yet our workshop in Locarno is expansive, joyous, and fundamentally optimistic, combining masterclasses with highly distinguished writers, professors and magazine editors who have made their mark on the past and the present both, including Kevin B. Lee, Laura Mulvey, Bernard Eisenschitz, Doug Dibbern, Mark Peranson, and Miguel Marías, as well as private encounters with beloved filmmakers attending Locarno, including Kelly Reichardt, Aleksandr Sokurov, and Todd Haynes.

Participants in the Critics Academy, selected from hundreds of applications late in spring, will have the opportunity to cover the festival for a variety of partnering outlets, including MUBI Notebook, Swissinfo, the Locarno Daily, Indiewire, Film Comment and the digital daily of Variety published during the festival. Specialised workshops, all of which take place on-site amidst the bustle of the Swiss festival, cover everything from pitching, writing texts, navigating through the world of industry and filing copy in a timely manner.

Alongside the Locarno Academy, the festival hosts a wealth of initiatives devoted to young people, all of which fall under the umbrella of the Locarno factory. Most prominently, this includes the Base Camp, which, post-pandemic, returns this year to full flowering with 150 participants in a new temporary location. Starting this year, the Base Camp and the Locarno Critics Academy have teamed up to provide support for Outskirts Film Magazine, a new 162-page, biannual print publication produced by former participants in the Critics Academy and which will be launched and sold during the festival.

The Locarno Film Festival runs over Aug. 3-13.

Christopher Small organises the Locarno Critics Academy.

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