The internationally renowned Locarno film festival has been showcasing unique films in an extraordinary Swiss setting since 1947, reports Renu Chahil-Graf who enjoys both the films and the wines of the region
On the shores of Lake Maggiore, from 3-13 August 2016 diverse screenings were held – with films from Afghanistan to Bhutan, Brazil to Bolivia, Bulgaria to Denmark, Finland to France, Nepal to South Korea, Syria to Tunisia – and more… A special German retrospective this year, filled the cinemas for classics such as Fritz Lang’s, « The Tiger from Eschnapur », set in India in 1959. At the opening ceremony Bill Pullman received an excellence Award by Moët and Chandon at the gracious Piazza Grande.
While catching up with the myriad films, documentaries, shorts and special events was a feat, the charming Mister Universo, a favourite among the crowds, got Special Mention at the awards. It tells the story of a lion tamer who scours Italy in search of a weight-lifter who gave him a talisman as a child years ago. This was Arthur Robin, a Mr Universe from 1957, who appears himself in the film, together with his wife, Lily Robin, effectively melding fiction and documentary filmmaking.
An added benefit was meeting Kartikeya Narayan Singh, an independent producer of art house and regional films which emphasize artistic quality, not only commercial viability. The Locarno film academy was fortunate to have him as a resource person. Kartikeya, is the producer of Chauthi Koot, a Punjabi film which was a challenge to distribute in India, but had its world première in Cannes in 2015.
Wine, especially wines of Ticino, the region where Locarno is based, were never far from the agenda. The numerous bars dotted around the Locarno squares and cobble stone alleys served the best of the region. Sommeliers in the bars at the La Rotonda area verified that the local, unusual white merlots and bubblies were the most sought after.
An unexpected pleasure was to stay at Fattoria Amorosa, a vineyard just a stone’s throw away from the film festival. Competently run by Sommelier (and linguist!) Nuno Correia, his enthusiasm, personalised care and knowledge brought alive the experience of wine tasting in Ticino. While initially the region experimented with many grapes, Merlot works best in this mild climate and rich terroir, with white wine from the merlot grape being a unique feature of Ticino.
But a surprise still awaited, with the generous Angelo Delea, creator and owner of Delea Wines and Distillery (delea.ch), who opened up his wine cellar on a Sunday to be available for Sommelier India readers! Energetic, but relaxed in informality, Angelo started winemaking in Losone, the heart of Ticino in 1983 and rapidly created some of the finest wines in the region: Merlot Carato, Carato Bianco, Chardonnay, the popular Spumante Charme and more. Angelo won early accolades and is especially proud of the grappas he produces – La Bruna, La Bionda and La Bianca. And when there’s time to “spare”, you can find Angelo Delea either organising solar panels for hospitals in Africa or racing cars in Monaco….
Good to know:
The 70th Film Festival of Locarno, 2-12 August 2017. Book early, especially hotels.
To taste wines and visit cellars of Ticino: