It is with great sadness that the Festival del film Locarno has learned of the death of Claudia Laffranchi.
Claudia was the public face of Piazza Grande and the Festival's Los Angeles correspondent from 2005 to 2011. The Festival thus loses a colleague and friend, we will greatly miss her open and affectionate personality, her passion and humanity.
The Festival observes a moment of silence to acknowledge our sense of bereavement.
Contribution by Artistic director Olivier Père
Farewell to Claudia Laffranchi
It was last Tuesday, right in the middle of the Cannes Festival, that we received the terrible news of Claudia Laffranchi’s tragic and premature death. Claudia was the Piazza Grande’s compère from 2005 to 2011. For seven years, it was she who every night introduced the films and the artistes on that legendary Locarno piazza which hosts open-air screenings to an audience of 8,000 people. Claudia, born in Ticino, was also a translator with a wonderful ability to move seamlessly from one language to another – an essential qualification for the Piazza Grande presentations that are made in a mix of English, Italian, French and German, depending on the occasion.
Claudia was a pleasant, friendly and always cheerful woman, and she was passionate about film. She had a natural ability to communicate, liked people and artistes, and was able to create a sense of trust and complicity with Locarno’s guests, whilst always remaining highly professional. This was why Locarno audiences, as well as the regular press and industry delegates at the festival, appreciated Claudia so much. With that big smile of hers, she was the public face and voice of the Piazza Grande, possessing both a popular touch and an elegance that mirrored the Festival of which she was so fond.
I met Claudia for the first time in August 2009, during the Festival del film Locarno, to discuss our goals and ambitions for the future of the event, and particularly the Piazza Grande, for which she was mistress of ceremonies. At that time, Claudia was the Festival’s consultant on American films. In my restructuring of the selection committee, there was no place for regional consultants, but her personal qualities were such that we were able to collaborate on the two subsequent editions of the festival. She was always helpful and willing to offer suggestions to the artistic directorate, since her job as a film journalist in Los Angeles kept her in regular contact with major Hollywood personalities. Although we wouldn't have worked together in 2012, Claudia remains someone who contributed a great deal to the Festival: it was she who suggested the producer Mike Medavoy for the Raimondo Rezzonico Award, and his response to our invitation was immediate and positive. It was also Claudia who interviewed the legendary Kirk Douglas in his Beverly Hills residence, and part of this filmed interview was screened both at the French Cinémathèque on the first night of the Stanley Kubrick retrospective, and on the Piazza Grande at the opening ceremony of the Festival del film Locarno’s 64th edition, on the occasion of the Vincente Minnelli retrospective. Every time I went to Los Angeles I would see Claudia, who organised my meetings with studio chiefs and publicists and drove me through town (as I don’t have a driving license, which can make life difficult in Los Angeles). Claudia, the perfect guide, got me around that enormous, sprawling city with great efficiency. Despite the many professional problems that foreign residents encounter there, it was a city where she felt at home. Fearless and persevering, Claudia freelanced across media in the USA, Switzerland (RSI, Il Caffé) and Italy (Il Giornale), never failed to attend a single major Hollywood production “press junket”, and regularly pulled off real journalistic scoops. She was proud of her interview with Mickey Rourke, and more recently, with Steven Spielberg. I remember a rather late dinner in 2009, in an old Downtown restaurant – I forget the name – where I, Claudia, Vincent Gallo and Mark Peranson from the Festival’s selection committee were the last customers. Vincent, on form as always, had us all in fits of laughter, and I think he really appreciated having such a beautiful woman as Claudia at his table.
The last time I saw Claudia was in early November 2011 at the AFI FEST, the Los Angeles Festival that was showing several films from the Locarno festival selection, a few days after the AFM, the film market at Santa Monica. We were at a rooftop party at the legendary Roosevelt Hotel (where the first Oscar ceremony was held). The Roosevelt is on Hollywood Boulevard, a few metres away from the American Cinematheque in the Egyptian Theater and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which were hosting a number of festival screenings, with the American première of Steven Spielberg’s Tintin as the closing film. I was with my friend Manlio Gomarasca, a consultant for the Festival del film Locarno, and the Swiss director Michael Steiner, who was touring the States with a programme of his films, organised by the Swiss Embassy. We had dinner together. Claudia joined us, cheerful and sociable as usual, along with Nadia Dresti from the Artistic Directorate, who runs the Festival del film Locarno’s Industry Office. The night before I returned to Paris, Claudia made me a present of her book Cinema Italian Style: Italians at the Academy Awards, a fine piece of work on Oscar-winning Italian artistes, co-written with Silvia Bizio and published by Gremese.
Nadia is one of my closest colleagues, but she was also one of Claudia’s best friends. Both from Ticino, they worked together on several editions of the Festival, but also met regularly in Los Angeles and elsewhere, such as India, where Claudia joined us for a few days’ holiday in Goa last year. Nadia was working on the Open Doors section highlighting India, during the Goa Festival, organising a press conference to be held there, while I was a member of the jury for the international competition. Once again, Claudia charmed our Indian colleagues with her infectious good humour and I will remember that pleasant dinner spent in the company of those two natives of Ticino, along with several young Indian directors and producers.
Informed at an early hour of the morning by Festival President Solari of the painful news from of Los Angeles, it was I who had to tell Nadia. Over the next few days, amidst the usual Cannes frenzy, which became unbearable because of our need for some private time, we received an endless stream of condolence messages from all over the world, proof – as if it were needed – of Claudia’s popularity and international reputation.
I offer my sincere condolences and sympathies to Claudia’s family, her mother, sister and brother, and to all her nearest and dearest. Like the thousands of viewers on the Piazza Grande, like all those who had the opportunity to meet or know her in her professional or private life, I will not forget Claudia and her remarkable contribution to the Festival, I will not forget her smile, her generosity and her kindness. When someone suddenly passes away one always regrets the interrupted conversation, the things one never had time to say: I’d like to say to Claudia, for one last time, “thank you”.