Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga opened the 2014 Zürich Film Festival (ZFF), by joking: “Congratulations to all film directors who dared to come to Zürich to a Festival inaugurated by the Minister of Justice. But I am happy to report, even after three opening ceremonies, still no arrests have been made.” Of course she was referring to the events of five years ago, when Roman Polanski, on his way to receive an Honorary Award was arrested in the Swiss city and put under house arrest while an extradition request to the U.S. was pending, putting the festival on the map for all the wrong reasons.
But that is ancient ZFF history: It’s rather impressive how fast the Zurich Film Festival has grown and developed into a platform for European fall premieres in only ten years. The eleven-day festival this year featured 145 new productions from 29 countries, including 17 world premieres. Among them: The Swiss-produced and directed large scale action adventure Northmen: A Viking Saga starring Tom Hopper, the Jack Huston/Brit Marling romantic comedy Posthumous and By the Gun, James Mottern’s sophomore effort starring Ben Barnes, Leighton Meester and Harvey Keitel.
Documentary world premieres included Belinda Sallin’s Dark Star: HR Giger’s World about the Swiss artist and Academy Award winning Alien designer who passed away earlier this year, and Children of the Arctic by Swiss newcomer Nick Brandestini who won the Golden Eye Award in the “Focus: Switzerland, Germany, Austria” section.. New discoveries were also made on and off the screen. The brothers Samuel and Josiah Patkotak, visiting Inupiaqs from the Alaskan small town of Barrow and protagonists in Children of the Arctic, were surprised by the local warm weather and the electrical cables running above the tram lines.
The brainchild of festival directors Karl Spoerri and Nadja Schildknecht, the ZFF focuses emerging filmmakers and on films with a larger audience appeal rather than experimental fare. Hence European premieres of films like Nightcrawler (with Renee Russo and husband/director Dan Gilroy attending) and A Walk Among Tombstones starring Liam Neeson who gave hope to the Gala crowd by joking: “I keep in shape by drinking tea and sitting in front of the TV.”
Other Hollywood stars who made their way to the “city with the most movie theater density in Europe” (as Spoerri pointed out) included Diane Keaton - the recipient of The Golden Icon Award who even sang on stage - Benicio Del Toro and Josh Hutcherson presenting their drama Escobar: Pardise Lost, Antonio Banderas with the Spanish sci-fi-thriller Autómata, as well as Cate Blanchett, Juliette Binoche, Peter Fonda, Zach Braff and composer Hans Zimmer (who received a Lifetime Achievement Award). The Career Achievement Award went to producer Michael Shamberg and a special tribute was paid to French filmmaker Claire Denis. The Golden Eye Award was presented to John Malkovich. ZFF Master speakers included Frederick Wiseman, Fatih Akin, Feature Film Jury President Susanne Bier, Hans Zimmer and Ulrich Seidl.
Next to the Hollywood fanfare there was plenty of room for some self reflection: For instance the Swiss documentary Die Demokratie ist los! by Thomas Isler about Switzerland’s direct Democracy and the recent controversial constitutional amendments it produced. Among the feature films, the German drama Labyrinth des Schweigens (Labyrinth of Lies) stood out by addressing a rarely visited time in German history: the time after WWII when former Nazis disappeared into the fabric of society and prosecuting war criminals was an uphill battle. Living with terminal cancer was – for lack of a better term – a popular theme including in Alexandre Powelz’ German feature Ohne Dich and in the Swiss documentary Zu Ende Leben by Rebecca Panian which won the Audience Award.
On a lighter note, Bouboule (Chubby) by Belgian-Swiss director Bruno Deville won the hearts of critics and audiences alike: The quirky light hearted coming-of-age story centers around a heavy boy who is constantly bullied because of his weight but finally sees a way to rise above his hardships when he befriends a young security guard and his German shepherd. Other competition favorites: Michaël R. Roskam’s dark drama The Drop starring Tom Hardy and the claustrophobic Iranian debut film Melbourne by Nima Javidi about an unforeseen tragedy that unfolds on a couple’s last day in their apartment before moving to Australia. And, of course, the winner of the Award for Best International Feature Film A Moonless Night by Germán Tejeira from Uruguay. The Awards were handed out at a live-streamed ceremony from the Opera House Saturday night.
In keeping with the times, the ZFF also featured a TV section showing critically acclaimed shows like True Detective and the Amazon Studio produced Hand of God which just got a series order based on the pilot which was directed by Swiss filmmaker Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace).
Like every year, there was a “New World View” guest country: this time it was India, showcasing the new independent Indian cinema beyond Bollywood. But where were the Indian guests? Unfortunately their films did not make it to the green carpet premieres at the Festival Center on the Sechseläutenplatz and therefore less visible. So, yes, even in a well-organized city, there are growing pains to work out. But one thing is clear: While even the locals wondered ten years ago, if after Locarno, Solothurn, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg, another Swiss film festival might be just too much, nobody asks this question anymore. The ZFF is now as proud a Zürich institution as the “Sternen Bratwurst” across from the Festival Center.
Marlene von Arx
COMPLETE LIST OF AWARDS
Awards for the films in competition at the 10th Zürich Film Festival were handed out on Saturday night at the Zürich Opera House. The three major categories are “International Feature Film”, “International Documentary Film” and “Focus: Switzerland, Germany, Austria”.
International Feature Film Competition
•Susanne Bier / director / Denmark (Jury President)
•Marie Masmonteil / producer, actress / France
•Jasmila Zbanic / director / Bosnia
•Donald De Line / producer / USA
The 10th Zurich Film Festival’s Golden Eye for Best International Feature Film goes to:
UNA NOCHE SIN LUNA/A MOONLESS NIGHT by Germán Tejeira (Uruguay/Argentina)
Special Mentions go to:
The actresses Hera Hilmarsdottir from VONARSTRAETI and Bianca Kronløf and Mona Kristiansen from SVENSKJÄVEL
THE DROP von Michaël R. Roskam (USA)
International Documentary Film Competition
•Steve James / producer / USA (Jury President)
•Greg Gorman / photographer / USA
•Nishtha Jain / director / India
•Nick Broomfield / director / UK
The 10th Zurich Film Festival’s Golden Eye for Best International Documentary Film goes to:
TOTO AND HIS SISTERS/TOTO SI SURORILE LUI by Alexander Nanau (Romania)
A Special Mention goes to:
THE LOOK OF SILENCE by Joshua Oppenheimer (Denmark/Finnland/UK/Norway/Indonesia)
RED ARMY by Gabe Polsky (USA/Russia)
Focus: Switzerland, Germany, Austria
•Stefan Arndt / producer / Germany (Jury President)
•Iris Berben / actress / Germany
•Jan-Ole Gerster / director, screenwriter / Germany
•Anna Thommen / director / Switzerland
•Peter Reichenbach / producer / Switzerland
The 10th Zurich Film Festival’s Golden Eye for Best Film in the ‚Focus: Switzerland, Germany, Austria’ competition section goes to:
CHILDREN OF THE ARCTIC by Nick Brandestini (Switzerland/WP)
A Special Mention goes to:
CAPITAL C by Jørg M. Kundinger and Timon Birkhofer (Germany/USA/WP)
Emerging Swiss Talent Award
•Marlene von Arx / film critic / USA
•Birgit Heidsiek / film critic / Germany
•Carola Fischer / film critic / Switzerland
The Emerging Swiss Talent Award for Best Swiss Film in the Festival Program goes to:
BOUBOULE/CHUBBY by Bruno Deville (Switzerland/Belgium)
Critic’s Choice Award
•Sonja Wenger / film critic / Switzerland
•Christian Jungen / film critic / Switzerland
•Andy Aguirre Eglin / film critic / Switzerland
The Swiss Association of Film Journalists (SVFJ) award their prize for Best Debut Feature Film in the Competition Section to:
SVENSKJÄVEL/UNDERDOG by Ronnie Sandahl (Sweden/Norway/WP)
Given to the best film from the three competition categories as chosen by viewers using voting cards at the cinemas, the Audience Award goes to:
ZU ENDE LEBEN by Rebecca Panian (Switzerland/WP)
Audience Award for Children’s Film
The Audience Award for best film in the ZFF for Kids’ section as chosen by our young viewers using voting cards at the cinemas goes to:
QUATSCH UND DIE NASENBÄRBANDE by Veit Helmer (Germany)
Treatment Competition Award
•Urs Fitze (SRF)
•Philippe van Doornick (Telepool)
•Daniel Howald (ARF/FDS)
Presented this year for the second time, the winner of the Award for Best Treatment goes to:
Christine Wiederkehr for ÄNNELI
Check out the photo gallery: CLICK HERE!