Markus Imhoof

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Markus Imhoof
Born (1941-09-19) 19 September 1941 (age 72)
Winterthur, Switzerland
Occupation Film director
Years active 1974-present

Markus Imhoof (born 19 September 1941) is a Swiss film director, screenwriter, theatre and opera director. Since the late 1970s he has been responsible for several of the most significant productions in Swiss film history.


Markus Imhoof was born in Winterthur, Switzerland. His father was a professor of German and History at Technikum Winterthur (today School of Engineering ZHAW). His mother, who was born on an Indian mission station, was an English teacher at the same school. His older sister Ursula is a teacher of Romance languages and literature.

Imhoof attended the humanistic gymnasium, and received his diploma from secondary school in 1961. He went on to study German language and literature, art history and history at the University of Zurich, and became the assistant of Leopold Lindtberg at Schauspielhaus Zurich. Imhoof has two children: daughter Barbara (b. 1966), a biologist, and son David (b. 1969), an actor.

In 1967 and 1968, he attended the film school at the Kunstgewerbeschule Zurich (today ZHdK), studying with Kurt Früh and teachers of the Polish film school Lodz. During this period he made his first short documentary, Rondo, which was banned until 1976. His film Ormenis 199 † 69, which drew on his time in the Swiss military, satirizes the heroic cavalry tradition. The film angered its backers, and veterans groups were successful in having the film censored for, among other controversies, a scene which features horses in gasmasks. While a censored version of the film was shown on television, the original version received many awards, including the Swiss Government Film Award and Silver Medal Venice.

In 1970 Imhoof co-founded the Nemo Film Corporation with Fredi M. Murer, Yves Yersin, Kurt Gloor, Alexander J. Seiler, Claude Champion and Georg Radanowicz.

From 1974 on, Imhoof made feature films in a documentary style. In preparation for his film Escape Risk (Fluchtgefahr) Imhoof worked several months undercover as a prison guard. The film describes the criminal career of a car mechanic, who, due to a petty offense, is caught up in the judicial system. Attempting to ascend in the pecking order of the prison, he helps “a pro” escape, only to be left alone and take up a life of crime himself. Imhoof’s critically acclaimed The Boat is Full (Das Boot ist voll 1980) caused a national uproar by challenging the myth of Swiss neutrality and humanitarianism during World War II. The film examines the central role of Swiss anti-semitism in the expulsion of Jewish asylum seekers who had fled Nazi Germany—an act, the film makes clear, tantamount to a death sentence. The film received the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for Best Screenplay and Best Directing and was nominated for an Oscar.

From 1970 until 1976, Imhoof was a member of the Federal Film Commission EFIK.

In 1977, Imhoof founded, with his school friend George Reinhart, the Limbo Film AG. Reinhart would go on to produce dozens of films for directors such as Daniel Schmid, Jaques Rivette, Chantal Akerman, Lea Pool, Thomas Brasch, and, a few years before his death, found the Fotomuseum in Winterthur.

In 1978, Imhoof moved to Milan and 1986 to Berlin. In Berlin, he again treated a political subject through a first-person point of view with his film The Journey (Die Reise). Adapted from Bernward Vesper’s novel, the film is set within the context of the Berlin student movement, examining inter-generational estrangement and its historical consequences.

In 1988, he returned to Switzerland where, in addition to making films, he directed Opera and theatre productions.

That same year, with Thomas Hürlimann, Imhoof co-authored the script The Mountain (Der Berg) adapted from a Huit Clos story about the mysterious 1922 double murder at the Säntis weather station. The film is shot on the mountain Pilatus, and stars Susanne Lothar, Mathias Gnädinger and Peter Simonischek. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

In 1996 Imhoof founded, with Pierre-Alain Meier and Thomas Koerfer from Frenetic Films AG, the Filmproduction AG. With Zero Film Berlin and Robert Boner of the Cinèmanufacture Paris, they produced the film “Fire in Paradise” (Flammen im Paradies / Les Raisons du Coeurs). The script was based on the story of Imhoof’s grandmother, who in 1899 traveled to India to marry an unknown missionary. Elodie Bouchez, Laurent Grévill, Sylvie Testud, and Bruno Todeschini starred.

Since 2003, Imhoof has been based in Berlin. He is member of the Academy of the Arts Berlin, the German Film Academy, the European Film Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.

In his first feature-length documentary film More Than Honey (2012) Imhoof addresses the problem of global honeybee decline. As in some of his earlier work, this film has personal significance: Imhoof’s grandfather was a beekeeper and his daughter Barbara is a bee scientist in Australia. The production of the film took five years to complete. It was produced by Pierre-Alain Meier, in co-production with Thomas Kufus of Zero One Films Berlin and Helmut Grasser of Allegro Films Vienna. In 2012 More Than Honey premiered at the International Festival Locarno at the Piazza Grande. It has been released theatrically in 29 countries, won many awards, and is in consideration in two categories for Oscars® 2014: “Best Foreign Film” (as Switzerland’s official entry) and “Best Documentary Film”.



As writer/director

As co-author

  • The Mountain' (Der Berg 1990) (co-author Thomas Hürlimann)
  • Angry Kisses' (Zornige Küsse 1999) (co-author and director Judith Kennel)

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Zurich Film Award for Ormenis 199 † 69 (1971)
  • International Venice Film Festival Silver Medal for Ormenis 199 † 69 (1971)
  • Zurich Film Award for You Are What You Eat (1972)
  • Zurich Film Award for Absconding (1975)
  • Prix Italia for Pipe Polishers (1979)
  • Berlin International Film Festival Silver Bear for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • Berlin International Film Festival Otto-Dibelius-Prize for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • Berlin International Film Festival OCIC-Prize for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • Berlin International Film Festival CIDALC-Prize for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • Oscar® Nomination, Best Foreign Language Film, for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • Prix-Aliza, Paris, for The Boat is Full (1981)
  • David di Donatello (René Clair Award) Rome, for The Boat is Full (1982)

Awards and nominations for More than Honey 2012/13[edit]


  • Swiss Film Award for Best Documentary
  • Swiss Film Award for Best Film Score
  • Zurich Film Award for Best Documentary Film (2012)
  • Prix Walo for Best Film Production
  • Solothurner Film Festival, Audience Award
  • Delémont-Hollywood, Audience Award


  • German Film Award LOLA for Best Documentary
  • German Film Award LOLA for Best Editing (nominated)
  • Bavarian Film Award for Best Documentary
  • Leipzig Movie Fair, Guild Film Award for Best Documentary
  • Darsser Nature Film Festival, Best Film: Man and Nature
  • Darsser Nature Film Festival, Audience Award


  • ROMY Film Award, Best Director, Documentary
  • ROMY Film Award for Best Theatrical Documentary
  • Austrian Film Award for Best Sound Design


  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Green Film Festival San Francisco, Best Feature Film Award


  • Festival Pariscience – International Festival of Scientific Film, Buffon Prize
  • Bourges International Ecological Film Festival, Best Documentary


  • Gran Paradiso Film Festival, Premio Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso

Great Britain

  • UK Green Film Festival, Audience Award


  • Pelicam International Film Festival, Audience Award


  • Apimondia - International Apicultural Congress, Golden Medal World Beekeeping Awards


  • Filmambiente International Environmental Film Festival, Special Mention


  • Markus Imhoof: Das Boot ist voll. Ein Filmbuch. Photography by George Reinhart and foreword by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Ammann, Zurich 1983.
  • Markus Imhoof and Claus-Peter Lieckfeld: More Than Honey. Vom Leben und Überleben der Bienen. orange-press, Freiburg 2012 ISBN 978-3936086676.

External links[edit]