Locarno Film Festival: Leopard of Honour 2009 to William Friedkin

The Swisscom Leopard of Honour for the 62nd edition of the Locarno International Film Festival will be awarded to American director William Friedkin, and To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) starring William L. Petersen and Willem Dafoe will screen on the Piazza Grande to mark the occasion. A masterclass will also take place at the Spazio Cinema (Forum) and is open to the public.

Born in 1935 in Chicago, William Friedkin made his directorial début with Good Times (1967), a musical starring Sonny & Cher. Four years later he had his first major hit with The French Connection (1971), which won five Oscars, including Best Director and Best Film. Friedkin followed this with The Exorcist (1973), which broke box office records and is still considered by many today to be one of the most terrifying films ever made. It won ten Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe for Best Director.

The 18 feature films William Friedkin has made to date include Sorcerer (1977) with Roy Scheider, Cruising (1981) with Al Pacino, The Hunted (2003) with Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro, plus the more recent Bug (2006) with Ashley Judd, screened at the Directors Fortnight at Cannes.

Since 1998 he has also staged a dozen operas all over the world and he is currently working on Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West for the Paris Opera.

Frédéric Maire, the Festival’s Artistic Director, comments «From action to horror, from thriller to fantasy, maverick William Friedkin has revolutionised genre cinema from within the very heart of the Hollywood system. Still going strong after 40 years in the business, this virtuoso and perfectionist director still holds his audience in thrall through a cinematic style that is both spectacular and firmly rooted in reality, and the dark world he conjures, reflecting the evils of our society ».

Every year, the Locarno Festival’s Leopard of Honour pays tribute to a major filmmaker still at work. Previous recipients include Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Luc Godard, Joe Dante, Ken Loach, Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Wim Wenders, Alexander Sokurov, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and, in 2008, Amos Gitai.

From this year on, the Leopard of Honour will be supported by Swisscom, one of the four main sponsors of the Locarno Festival.

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