LOCARNO, Switzerland — The world premiere of “The Human Resources Manager,” an unlikely story about an Israeli manager who makes a trek to rural Romania to return the body of a worker killed in a car bombing, was Tuesday’s screening in the Piazza Grande during an evening dominated by the Leopard of honor given to iconic Swiss director Alain Tanner.
U.K. film director Jacob Berger, himself a Golden Leopard nominee for his 2002 film “A Loving Father,” produced a nine-minute tribute he said was “a love story” to the esteemed Tanner.
Then Tanner, 80, whose career honors include Locarno’s 1969 Golden Leopard for “Charles, Dead or Alive,” appeared on stage to raucous applause. He told the packed Piazza Grande crowed that, like all of them, he was there as a “faithful fan of cinema,” and he praised the 63-year-old Locarno festival as “essential.” He was presented his award by French film critic Serge Toubiana and given a rare standing ovation when he concluded his remarks.
“The Human Resources Manager,” directed by Eran Riklis and starring veteran actor Mark Ivanir in the title role, was also well received. The film, made in Hebrew, English, and Romanian, is Riklis’ second appearance in Locarno: his comedy “The Syrian Bride” won the festival’s audience award in 2004.
The film tells the story of a Jerusalem-based bakery human resources manager, dogged by an critical reporter, who takes the body of a deceased former employee back to rural Romania, where she grew up. The 100-minute production reveals a series of unexpected developments and cultural clashes, but maintains a serious tenor throughout.
Locarno’s Open Doors co-production lab, awarded its main prizes on Tuesday, as well. This year’s sidebar focused on the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and featured 12 finalists from among 114 applications in the program sponsored in part by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The finalists were introduced in the Piazza Grande on Monday, and, a day later, after four days of screenings, lectures, and other events, the jury awarded production grants to three films: “Sunny Days” from Kazakhstan’s Nariman Turebayev and produced by Limara Zheksembayeva won the main prize, worth 50,000 Swiss francs ($40,000), and two smaller prizes to Uzbekistan’s “Aral” by Ella Vakkasova, and “Barzagh” from fello Uzbekistani director Saodat Ismailova.