Dreaming & Dying

Iran’s ‘Critical Zone’, Singapore’s ‘Dreaming & Dying’ Take Best Film Awards In Locarno

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Ali Ahmadzadeh’s Critical Zone, a film secretly shot on the streets of Tehran, was awarded the Golden Leopard for best film in the international competition at this year’s Locarno Film Festival (August 2-12). Dreaming & Dying (pictured aboved) by Singapore’s Nelson Yeo won the same honours in the ‘Cinema of the Present’ section.

Critical Zone, an Iranian-German co-production, follows a man driving through Tehran’s underworld with his dog, dealing drugs, healing troubled souls and discovering seeds of resistance. Ahmadezadeh was prevented by the Iranian authorities from travelling to Locarno to present the film and had faced pressure ahead of the festival to withdraw it from competition.

Locarno jury president Lambert Wilson said that it had been an unanimous decision to award “a film that has collectively electrified us, a film that is as immersive and defiant as it is compassionate and tender. With inventive and disciplined photography and sound design, the director draws authentic and audacious performances in spite of an oppressive and dangerous reality. This film is a 99-minute scream in the name of rebellion and freedom.”

The award marks the third time in Locarno’s history that the Golden Leopard has gone to an Iranian film following Ebrahim Fourouzesh’s The Jar (1994) and Jafar Panahi’s The Mirror (1996).

Among other winners in the International Competition, Radu Jude was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Don’t Expect Too Much From The End Of The World, while best director went to Ukrainian-born Maryna Vroda for her debut feature Stepne (see full list of winners below).

Southeast Asia continued its winning streak in the Cineaste del Presente (Cinema of the Present) section with Singapore’s Nelson Yeo taking the Golden Leopard for best film for Dreaming & Dying, which also won the Swatch First Feature Award. Co-produced by Singapore’s Momo Film Co and Indonesia’s Kawankawan Media, the film is a drama fantasy about three middle-aged friends reuniting for the first time in many years.

Best emerging director in this section went to Germany’s Katharina Huber for her debut feature Ein Schöner Ort (A Good Place), while the Special Jury Prize was awarded to Éléonore Saintagnan’s debut feature Camping du Lac.

The four acting awards across the international competition and Cinema of the Present were gender neutral (see winners below). The festival also presented a “Green Leopard”, introduced for the first time last year, to Serbian filmmaker Dragan Bjelogorić for Guardians Of The Formula, about a real-life case of a scientist treating a group of physicists who were accidentally exposed to a massive dose of radiation.

The 77th Locarno Film Festival will be held from August 7-17, 2024.

Locarno Film Festival 2023:


Best Film: Critical Zone, by Ali Ahmadzadeh (Iran, Germany)

Special Jury Prize: Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World, by Radu Jude (Romania, Luxembourg, France, Croatia)

Best Direction: Maryna Vroda for Stepne (Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Slovakia)

Best Performance: Dimitra Vlagopoulou for Animal, by Sofia Exarchou, (Greece, Austria, Romania, Cyprus, Bulgaria)

Best Performance: Renée Soutendijk for Sweet Dreams, by Ena Sendijarević, (Netherlands, Sweden, Indonesia, France)

Special Mention: Nuit Obscure – Au Revoir Ici, N’importe Ou, by Sylvain George (France, Switzerland)


Best film: Dreaming & Dying, by Nelson Yeo (Singapore, Indonesia)

Best Emerging Director: Katharina Huber for Ein Schöner Ort (Germany)

Special Jury Prize: Camping Du Lac, by Éléonore Saintagnan (Belgium, France)

Best Performance: Clara Schwinning for Ein Schöner Ort, by Katharina Huber (Germany)

Best Performance: Isold Halldórudóttir & Stavros Zafeiris for Touched, by Claudia Rorarius (Germany)

Special Mention: Excursion, by Una Gunjak (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, France, Norway, Qatar)

Special Mention: Negu Hurbilak, by Colectivo Negu (Spain)

Swatch First Feature Award: Dreaming & Dying, by Nelson Yeo (Singapore, Indonesia)

Pardo Verde Ricola: Guardians Of The Formula, by Dragan Bjelogrlić (Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia)


UBS Prix du Public: The Old Oak, by Ken Loach (UK, France, Belgium)

Ecumenical Jury Award: Patagonia, by Simone Bozzelli (Italy)

Special Mention: Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World, by Radu Jude (Romania, Luxembourg, France, Croatia)

FIPRESCI Award: Stepne, by Maryna Vroda (Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Slovakia)

European Cinemas Label Award: Yannick, by Quentin Dupieux (France)


Grand Prix: Monogamia, by Ohad Milstein (Israel)

Premio Zonta Club Locarno: Les Soeurs Pathan, by Eléonore Boissinot (France)

Marco Zucchi Award: Les Premiers Jours, by Stéphane Breton (France)

Residency Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur @ Villa Sträuli: Mohamadreza Mayghani, (Filmmakers Academy participant, Iran)