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Elena Avdija (above) director of CASCADEUSES and director Reed Harkness (left) with the producers of SAM NOW (below) at the Award Night in the Operahouse Zurich.

137 000 visitors at the 18th ZFF

The 18th Zurich Film Festival comes to a close this evening having attracted a record number of visitors. It recorded 137’000 entries – that’s 20’000 more than the pre-pandemic year of 2019. With that, the ZFF remains the largest film festival in Switzerland. Stars like Eddie Redmayne, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Liam Neeson were as delighted to come into contact with the public as directors like Luca Guadagnino, Mia Hansen-Løve and Kirill Serebrennikov. The surprising crowd-pleaser turned out to be the movie MAD HEIDI, for which all screenings sold out.

The strong growth is owed in part to the 1200-seat Zurich Conference Center, which was used this year over the entire eleven days of the festival. In addition, the ZFF was able to screen 38 films as world or European premieres, more than in the entire history of the festival. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who received the Golden Eye, and Rebel Wilson presented their drama THE ALMOND AND THE SEAHORSE as a world premiere, and audience favourite Eddie Redmayne, who also received a Golden Eye, presented the thriller THE GOOD NURSE as a European premiere.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Eddie Redmayne and Luca Guadagnino receiving their Awards at the 18th ZFF.


Further stars attending the ZFF were Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Matthias Schweighöfer, Iris Berben, Daniel Brühl and Til Schweiger. In addition, numerous renowned auteur filmmakers like Luca Guadagnino (BONES AND ALL), Neil Jordan (MARLOWE), Louis Garrel (L’INNOCENT), Bill Pohlad (DREAMIN’ WILD), Cristian Mungiu (R.M.N.), Mia Hansen-Løve (UN BEAU MATIN), Lukas Dhont (CLOSE) and Kirill Serebrennikov (TSCHAIKOWSKY’S WIFE) presented their work in person to the public.

The strongest growth can be seen in the three competition categories, which showcases first, second or third directorial works. “We have succeeded in recent years in attracting a regular cinephile audience that is both curious about the work of emerging talent and visits the cinema in the afternoon. This year, more afternoon screenings were sold out than ever before, and this was certainly due to the persistent rainy weather,” says Christian Jungen. “Now, we hope that people will continue to go to the cinema on a regular basis after the ZFF is over. Because ultimately, we also want our festival to help keep cinema culture alive.”

The Golden Eyes, each endowed with a 25’000 cash prize, were presented to the winners of the competition categories yesterday evening during the glamorous Award Night held at Zurich Opera House.

The winning films of the 18th Zurich Film Festival

The Golden Eye in the Focus Competition went to CASCADEUSES / STUNTWOMEN by Elena Avdija from Western Switzerland. She portrayed three stuntwomen whose daily working life consisted of embodying victims and being beaten. The documentary highlighted their unglamorous working day and cast a spotlight on the often sexist, violence-defined representation of women in film. A Special Mention went to FOUDRE by Carmen Jaquier.

The Golden Eye in the Feature Film Competition went to LOS REYES DEL MUNDO by Laura Mora Ortega from Columbia. It tells the story of five people living on the fringes of society setting out to seek their place in the world. The two-time Academy Award-winner and Jury president Asghar Farhadi from Iran used the opportunity to express on behalf of all the jurors solidarity to the women in Iran who are rebelling against their country’s regime. Director Laura Mora Ortega also expressed solidarity with the women of Iran in her acceptance speech.

The Golden Eye in the Documentary Film Competition went to SAM NOW by Reed Harkness. Using his own Super 8 footage and home videos from the rich family archive, filmmaker Reed Harkness uses subtle humour to tell the story of the wounds of separation and the power of reconciliation in this documentary. THE KILLING OF A JOURNALIST by Matt Sarnecki, about the murder of a Ringier journalist in Slovakia, and THE NEW GREATNESS CASE by Anna Shishova, which offers a rare glimpse of Russian resistance to a system of inordinate power, both received a Special Mention.

Strong performance by Swiss films

In addition to the guest country Spain, Swiss film also made a strong appearance. xx domestic productions were shown, including the world premiere of the senior citizen comedy THE GOLDEN YEARS by Barbara Kulcsar, and the world premiere of Laurent Nègre’s historical drama A FORGOTTEN MAN, about Switzerland’s role in World War II. The most atmospheric screening of the entire festival, however, was the premiere of MAD HEIDI by xy, which was frenetically celebrated by a raucous crowd at Zurich Conference Center. The film sold out immediately, so ZFF scheduled an additional screening on Saturday evening at the Coros cinema.

The Zurich Summit, held last weekend at the Dolder Grand, was also a great success. Leaders from the global film industry met to discuss the challenges facing the film industry. Among the participants were Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, the founders and co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics. The two pioneers were honoured with the Game Changer Award on the occasion of their studio’s 30th anniversary.

Tom Bernard (left) and Michael Barker (right) were honoured with the Game Changer Award. © Gabriel Hill for ZFF

Zurich Film Festival

The Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) is the largest autumn festival in the German-speaking world. Over 11 days, it presents the greatest discoveries and the year’s most anticipated movies. The ZFF promotes exchange between upcoming directors, established filmmakers, the film industry and the general public. Last year’s ZFF attracted over 100,000 spectators and thousands of accredited film and media professionals from all over the world …’Cause life is better with movies!

The 19th Zurich Film Festival takes place from September 28 until October 8, 2023.


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