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Locarno Film Festival: sexually explicit Brazilian film 'Rule 34' takes top prize

Brazilian film 'Rule 34' wins top prize at Locarno
Brazilian film 'Rule 34' wins top prize at Locarno   -   Copyright  Locarno Film Festival
By David Mouriquand

The Locarno International Film Festival has awarded its top prize, the Golden Leopard, to the Brazilian drama Rule 34 from director Julia Murat.

Rule 34 follows a young law student, Simone, who defends the rights of women in domestic abuse cases and performs in front of a live sex cam during her time off. It’s a disturbing and sexually charged drama that see the lead protagonist embrace her sexual impulses that lead her deeper into a world of erotic violence.

The title refers to the popular online meme that states that “if it exists, there’s a porn version of it.”

This is Murat’s third feature after her debut Found Memories (2012) and Pendular, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.

It is not the first time that a film dealing with pornography and the declinations of sexuality on screen wins a major award at international film festivals, with recent examples being Berlinale winner Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn from Radu Jude, which won the Golden Bear in 2021, and Touch Me Not, Adina Pintilie’s challenging film which also won the Golden Bear, in 2018.

Women on Top

The closing ceremony capped a strong year for female filmmakers at the festival, with low-key coming-of-age drama Tengo Sueños Eléctricos, from Costa Rican director Valentina Maurel, winning three major awards: Best Director for Maurel and both acting awards for Daniela Marín Navarro and Reinaldo Amien Gutiérrez.

The film sees 16-year-old Eva wanting to move in with her estranged father in the wake of her parents’ divorce, and explores the knotty crawlspace between teenage years and adulthood in an unsentimental and frank manner.

The winners were announced on August 13, the final day of the 75th edition of the festival. The winners in International Competition are as follows:

  • Golden Leopard (Pardo d’Oro): Rule 34, by Julia Murat
  • Special Jury Prize of the Cities of Ascona and Losone: Gigi la legge, by Alessandro Comodin
  • Pardo for Best Direction of the City and Region of Locarno for the best directed film: Tengo Sueños Eléctricos, Valentina Maurel
  • Pardo for Best Actress: Tengo Sueños Eléctricos, Daniela Marín Navarro
  • Pardo for Best Actor: Tengo Sueños Eléctricos, Reinaldo Amien Gutiérrez

This year’s Golden Leopard competition jury was comprised of Swiss arthouse producer Michel Merkt (Elle, Toni Erdmann), British filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond (Censor), French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie (Stranger By the Lake), Emmy-winning American producer William Horberg (The Queen’s Gambit), and Italian director Laura Samani (Small Bond).

In terms of honorary prizes, the festival awarded the Pardo alla carriera 2022 went to cineaste Costa-Gavras; the Pardo d’onore Manor 2022 to director Kelly Reichardt, with the festival stating that “as an expression of U.S. cinema’s inexhaustible capacity for reinventing itself, Kelly Reichardt is perhaps the most exciting filmmaker working today”; the Lifetime Achievement Award 2022 to actor Matt Dillon; and the Leopard Club Award 2022 to Daisy Edgar-Jones, “one of the most promising actresses working today.”

This was the first full-scale edition of Locarno since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Video editor • Glynis Crook