Alex Billington

Cinema in Switzerland

My Visit to the Locarno Film Festival

All photos taken on iPhone 5s by Alex Billington [@abillington] in August 2014.
Benvenuto per Locarno! I love film festivals and decided to take a trip in August to the Festival del film Locarno, one of the oldest festivals in the world aside from Cannes and Venice. This year (2014) was its 67th year, and my first time there, my first time to Switzerland at all. In this part of the country they speak Italian, since Italy is only a ferry ride away. It's a beautiful town to host a festival in and I loved my brief visit there - staying only four full days before taking off again.

Their signature screening venue is an 8,000 seat outdoor venue called the Piazza Grande in the middle of a plaza in the heart of town. Upon arrival in the day I found a plaza full of empty yellow seats waiting to be filled later that night.
Every night the Piazza Grande is shut off to the public and becomes the most amazing outdoor screening venue you'll ever sit in. As long as it's not raining, this is one of the most spectacular locations I've been lucky enough to watch films in (projection and sound are top notch, too) and I wished I could've stuck around to see more movies there.

The photo on the left shows how they block off every little incoming street so that everyone can be ticketed coming in and it's a safe environment for all.
Their elevated projection booth looks a bit like an alien spaceship. Maybe?
Above - A sculpture as well as temporary signage for the film festival.

Below - A gallery of oil paintings as part of Jan-Hendrik Pelz's "Favorites" exhibition, with images of randomly chosen frames from artists' favorite films. For more on these paintings visit
Located on Lake Maggiore on the southern corner of Switzerland nearest Milan, Locarno is a charming little mountain-lake town, complete with a vintage funicular, gorgeous old church overlooking the city, and daily ferry service to nearby towns on the lake. Nice to stop by any time of the year.
During the festival the entire area is abuzz with cinematic excitement, crowds visiting from all over. In the neighboring city of Ascona I caught this street performer as Charlie Chaplin earning quite an audience with his show. Chaplin made his home in Vevey, Switzerland in his later years until his death, and nods to him could be spotted all over the country.
My trip to Locarno ended all too quickly, right as I was getting used to the town and all its quirks. But I will remember the experience forever. As someone who appreciates the art of storytelling as much as the experience of cinema, it was a delight to visit Locarno and catch a few films during their 67th edition. My coverage of Locarno and other festivals can be found at:
An amazing place to see films. The festival takes over the city and in other local cinemas too, but once you've been to the Piazza Grande that's where you'll want to see everything. It's worth visiting Locarno just to see anything in this setting, out under the stars...
Here's a wood-carved leopard (the official animal of Locarno - part of their logo) found at the entrance to the Rotonda del Festival, an arts/crafts/food event happening right down the street during the film festival.