Locarno review: Been There (2023)

Locarno Film Festival
Pardi di Domani – National Competition

©freihändler Filmproduktion

Tourists can be most generally defined as people who travel the world in order to see different places, but that kind of definition, apart for being too general, can now be dismissed as anachronistic and obsolete. People travel for different reasons: for business, for visiting family and friends, for pleasure or for leisure. Even the concept of vacationing got diversified over the years and now covers the full spectre from “all inclusive” type of stay in a bubble of a seaside or skiing resort to city breaks and adventures in nature “away from the civilisation”.

After dealing with the new, lazy type of mass tourism in her previous short documentary collage All Inclusive, Corina Schwingruber Ilić deals with the other side of the spectre in her newest work Been There. The film premiered at the National Competition of Pardi di Domani at Locarno Film Festival.

The two films are alike in the artistic approach that consists of succession of takes of tourists being tourists and doing stuff the tourists do, (seemingly) without any interference, let alone spoken comments, from the outside. There are no dialogues to be properly heard in the film and all of them blend into the murmur associated with the places Schwingruber Ilić and her husband and cinematographer Nikola Ilić are covering, so the sound design by Hartmut Homolka plays a significant part in the film. However, the different “types” of tourists, their destinations and preferred activities make All Inclusive and Been There almost perfect opposites and therefore quite complimentary works.

Unlike the “all-inclusive” leisurers in their bubbles, here we have a bunch that is more active and wants to cover more “mileage”, both in the physical and the metaphorical, emotional sense (getting the “fix” of serotonin from seeing awesome places in historical cities or in the open nature) in as little time as possible. Their way of doing tourism also dictates the filmmaker’s editing of usually snappy snippets, sometimes arranged for a lightly humorous, but still poignant effect.

When the ground rules are established, the filmmaker is the real “elephant in the room” sometime half-way through: the film stops being just about tourist seeing places, and becomes more about tourists being seen at places, both by the observers that can easily realise that they are very much interfering with the landscape (does not matter if it is urban or seemingly wild), and by the tourists themselves. Photos and selfies have to be taken to serve as a proof of being there (“pics or it didn’t happen”), and the whole thing becomes a silly game that pretty much everybody is playing. Therefore, Been There serves as a study of the current state of tourist culture and the comment on it that, in the deliberate absence of words, seems even more eloquent.


Year: 2023
Runtime: 10’
Country: Switzerland
Language: No dialogue
Directed by: Corina Schwingruber Ilić
Written by: Corina Schwingruber Ilić
Cinematography by: Nikola Ilić
Editing by: Corina Schwingruber Ilić
Sound design: Hartmut Homolka
Colourist: Philippe Gallay
Produced by: Stella Händler
Co-produced by: Urs Augstburger, Gabriela Bloch
Production company: freihändler Filmproduktion
Co-production company: SRF
Support by: Swiss Confederation Federal Office of Culture, Fachasschus Film und Medienkunst BS/BL, Kulturförderung Kanton Luzern, City of Luzern / FUKA Fonds, Sucess Cinema BAK
Sales by: Ouat Media
Festival distribution: Square Eyes