Locarno Open Doors: fostering social development through culture

For over 20 years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been supporting the Open Doors section of the Locarno Film Festival. Its goal is to strengthen the role played by culture as a driver of stability in society and social development by supporting films and filmmakers from countries in the Global South and East. Cuban director Daniela Muñoz is benefiting from this support. Here she shares her experience.

Plusieurs réalisatrices et réalisateurs tiennent une conférence en extérieur face à un nombreux public.

Plusieurs films de réalisatrices et réalisateurs venant d’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes seront aussi projetés à Locarno dans les cadres des Open Doors Screenings. © Virginia Bettoja / Locarno Film Festival

"Supporting and showcasing talent and films from countries where independent cinema is vulnerable." This is the goal pursued since 2003 by the Locarno Film Festival's Open Doors section, which is backed by the SDC. Participants in the event, which in 2023 runs from 3 to 9 August and online for the rest of the year, will be offered training, sharing and networking opportunities. In the period 2022–24, Open Doors is spotlighting Latin America and the Caribbean. "The countries we focus on are generally under-represented on the international film scene," explains Head of Open Doors Zsuzsi Bánkuti. "The main challenge in these regions is how to create films in an extremely unstable environment, both politically and socially."

Daniela Muñoz from Cuba will be in Locarno this year alongside other film professionals selected to take part in Open Doors. She will be continuing work on the feature-film project La estrella (The Star), which she is producing. Part documentary, part fiction, the film tells the story of Pitufo, a young Cuban who dreams of moving to Florida. "Being a filmmaker in Cuba is extremely challenging," stresses Muñoz, who also had to suspend research on her film when the pandemic broke out. "Cuba has been hit by a social, economic and political crisis that has led to the exodus of thousands of Cubans, including movie industry professionals," explains the filmmaker, adding: "For many years, we didn't have access to the internet, making it extremely difficult to get our films shown on the international circuit."

Open Doors, a "beacon" for filmmakers

Photo of Daniela Muñoz, who is taking part in the Open Doors section of the Locarno Film Festival.
Cuban director Daniela Muñoz will be working on her feature-film project La estrella during this year's Open Doors in Locarno. © Locarno Film Festival

Muñoz is already familiar with Locarno, where one of her short films was shown in 2022 as part of the Open Doors Screenings (see box below). She describes Open Doors as a "beacon that motivates her to keep moving forward", and says she is delighted to be back in Ticino. "This project allows us to share our experiences, explore creative solutions and learn from each other. It's an ideal space in which to build a network of support and collaboration where we can find new ways to overcome obstacles and strengthen our presence in the film industry." She also stresses the importance of making the public and the international industry aware of the issues addressed in Open Doors projects.

According to Zsuzsi Bánkuti, these issues reflect the current state of our society. "They include themes such as women's and reproductive rights, LGBTQI+ people and minorities, and indigenous and urban realities. These voices reflect on our individual and collective identities and the way they influence our work and our place in society."

SDC support in Switzerland and partner countries

Photo of Rudi von Planta
Rudi von Planta, head of the SDC Culture and Development team. © SDC

Thanks, among other things, to its support for Locarno Open Doors, the SDC is helping artists from the Global South and East to access Swiss and international audiences, markets and professional networks. The SDC also provides targeted support to the cultural sector in partner countries. "Access to art and culture is one of the prerequisites not only for peace, but also for economic and social development. Indeed, respect for diversity of opinion is a factor in ensuring stability in the development of any society. For developing countries on the path to lasting peace or in the midst of a democratic transition, it plays an even more important role," says Rudi von Planta, head of the SDC Culture and Development team.

In this way, the SDC's cultural engagement in partner countries is contributing to multiple Sustainable Development Goals. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Open Doors' focal region from 2022 to 2024, the SDC is supporting a number of projects, including the Young Art Fund (FAJ) in Cuba, and funding for Nicaragua's 'Society, culture and memory' programme, which promotes culture and historical memory in Central America.

The SDC's cultural commitment is an important contribution by Switzerland to implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO in 2005 and ratified by Switzerland in 2008.

Open Doors Screenings

In addition to the workshops and co-production platform offered to filmmakers selected for Open Doors, a number of films by Latin American and Caribbean directors will be shown in Locarno as part of the Open Doors Screenings. In seven feature-length films, viewers will be transported to 1980s Bolivia, discover a once prosperous Venezuelan village and spend time with 11-year-old Teo, who helps his father build a machine to generate a deluge in a Peruvian city where it never rains. Eleven shorts will also be screened, tackling subjects as diverse as the 1947 civil war in Paraguay, the journey of two spirits to the Land of the Dead, and the passion of a young woman who tells stories in Quechua on a local radio station.

The full Open Doors Screenings programme is available at:

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