In the year of COVID-19, the Zurich Film Festival once again offers an extensive programme: 23 of the fest’s 165 films screen as world premieres, that’s more than ever before. More than half of the films in the competitions are by women. Young French cinema bathes in the limelight. Stars including Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche and Til Schweiger come to Zurich. Iris Berben receives the Golden Eye for her career achievements.
The programme of the 16th ZFF includes 165 films from 47 countries with 23 of them screening as world premieres, 11 as international premieres and 4 as European premieres. This year’s Focus competition highlights the new generation of French filmmakers, and the thematic section “Hashtag”, this year as #GetUpStandUp, turns the spotlight on people who fight against social conventions. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many filmmakers will still be in Zurich to present their films in person, including such internationally renowned stars as Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Til Schweiger.
Iris Berben, the Grande Dame of German film, was honoured with the Golden Eye for her career achievements during today’s press conference. She was due to accept the award in Zurich on the occasion of the world premiere screening of her most recent film DAS UNWORT on October 2. The presentation was brought forward because Berben is shooting in Greece during this time and a return would mean having to spend time in quarantine. Berben thanked the festival team: “Not only for the honour that you bestow upon me, but also for your courage, your perseverance and your passion to make this festival happen. All credit to this festival for ensuring that we in the film business don’t lose touch with the public.”
A beacon of optimism
For his first edition of the festival as Artistic Director, Christian Jungen says: “Cinema is under immense pressure because viewers got used to streaming during lockdown. The ZFF, however, remains loyal to cinema, which is why we opted for a physical event with a comprehensive programme. It is important to us, even during this difficult year, to bring top-class guests to Zurich, and it is for this reason that we have been able to secure so many world premieres. By going ahead with the ZFF – with an extensive protection plan in place, of course – we see ourselves as a beacon of optimism, not only for the general public, but also for the film industry and cultural events in general: the virus will be around for some time, we have to learn to live with it and continue to follow our passions.”
Young filmmakers and women’s power
The most exciting new voices can be heard across all sections of the festival: over 100 works shown at the ZFF are either first, second or third directorial works. 38 films are nominated for the Golden Eyes in the Focus, Feature Film and Documentary Film competitions. ZFF’s Head of Programme Georg Bütler explains: “The competition reflects the complete spectrum of contemporary filmmaking: vibrant, urgent, challenging. And it does so in a wide variety of ways: from the brand-new Danish action thriller SHORTA, which highlights police violence in a suburb of Copenhagen, to the meticulously staged Indian drama THE DISCIPLE about a man who has devoted his life to Indian folk music, from the surprising documentary film MAYA, which, while telling the story of a tiger living in an Iranian zoo, also reflects our fascination with the exotic, to the Ukrainian contribution THE EARTH IS BLUE AS AN ORANGE, a poetic documentary about hope and dreams and the power of art in times of fear and despair.”
This is not the first time that women filmmakers have been offered a particularly large platform at the ZFF. However, this year women directed almost 40 percent of the films across all sections, with the proportion of women exceeding 50 percent in the competition section. Bütler commented: “We didn’t once discuss the proportion of women in the programme during the whole year. It’s encouraging and speaks for the quality of the films that we are representing female filmmakers from around the world.”
Strong Swiss presence and a sharp focus on France
With 27 productions, the ZFF has also made plenty of room for Swiss filmmaking in its programme. Titles include the latest works from such figureheads as Bettina Oberli (MY WONDERFUL WANDA), Stefan Haupt (ZÜCHER TAGEBUCH) and Rolando Colla (W. – WAS VON DER LÜGE BLEIBT). Furthermore, director Rolf Lyssy not only presents the world premiere of his most recent work EDEN FÜR JEDEN, he is also the recipient of the festival’s Career Achievement Award, which includes a comprehensive 10-film retrospective. In addition to the established names, the ZFF also offers an important platform to new voices from Switzerland like Karin Heberlein (SAMI JOE UND ICH, world premiere), Pascal Hofmann (NOT ME – A JOURNEY WITH NOT VITAL, world premiere), Christian Koch (SPAGAT) and Nina Stefanka (MIRAGGIO, world premiere), all of which screen in the Focus competition. Local filmmaking will also be acknowledged when the Zurich Film Day is launched in the presence of Councillor Jacqueline Fehr and the Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch on September 29.
The ZFF shows a staggering 40 (co-)productions from France. Dedicated this year to the humorous, adventurous and spirited new generation of filmmakers from our cinema-crazy neighbouring country, the 17 titles in the “New World View” section present a panorama of the many new developments to come out of Europe’s cinema stronghold. GAGARINE and SLALOM, two French debut works that have been selected for our competition section, are perfect examples of France’s urgent and original output. Furthermore, the ZFF honours two French filmmakers for the first time in its history: Juliette Binoche receives the Golden Icon Award for her lifetime achievements as an actress and presents her most recent film LA BONNE EPOUSE, while director, screenwriter and actress Maïwenn receives the A Tribute to … Award for her work as a director and uses the opportunity to present her latest film ADN(DNA). Further Golden Eyes go to the British actress Olivia Colman and Til Schweiger.
Highlights of the year in the Gala programme and Hashtag #GetUpStandUp section
Many of the 34 titles selected for the Gala programme are highlights of the movie year that are also set to enter the race for the Oscars. They include the Sundance hits THE FATHER and THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS, as well as such highly anticipated autumn titles as NOMADLAND and ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI. The espionage thriller THE COURIER, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, will screen as a European premiere.
Two years after his last appearance at the festival, Johnny Depp returns to Zurich as a producer with the music documentary CROCK OF GOLD about the legendary Irish punk/poet Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), in a film by Julien Temple. The German director Sönke Wortmann presents the world premiere of his latest comedy CONTRA. Other stand out international premieres from Europe include Daniele Luchetti’s Venice opener LACCI and Nir Bergman’s arthouse gem HERE WE ARE. Bergman, the mastermind behind the globally adapted Israeli hit series IN TREATMENT, returns to Zurich again this year after winning last year’s ZFF Series Competition with JUST FOR TODAY
The line-up is supplemented by various sidebar programmes, including the Hashtag series – an eight-film line-up under the #GetUpStandUp that turns the spotlight on people who fight against social conventions or for recognition or even for bare survival. The international premiere of the documentary film THE DISSIDENT will take place as part of this section on October 2, the second anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The entire ZFF programme is available to view now on the festival’s website at zff.com. This is where we will also publish any changes to the programme and give details of the presence of guests at each of the film screenings.
The 16th Zurich Film Festival takes place form September 24 until October 4. We take this early opportunity to offer you a warm welcome to the festival.