Zurich Film Festival

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Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) is an annual film festival that takes place in Zurich at the end of September since 2005. The ZFF has developed rapidly in the few years since its foundation and now attracts a total of 85.000 visitors. The 12th Zurich Film Festival takes place from September 22 - October 2, 2016.

The festival focuses on the presentation and promotion of new director's talent from around the world. Only first, second or third directing works are eligible to enter the three competition categories. Particular emphasis is placed on the discovery of new talent from the German-speaking world, with a separate competition category created solely for this purpose. Films in the competition line-up, as well as those from established filmmakers, are generally presented in person by the film’s creators. In addition to its multifaceted film programme, the festival is also renowned for its top-class side-events programme, which includes the Zurich Master Class and the international ZURICH SUMMIT – events that make ZFF one of the most important international film industry hubs. The main festival award is the Golden Eye, which is awarded in the three competition categories and to the festival’s guests of honour.

The ZFF is organised by Spoundation Motion Picture GmbH in cooperation with local institutes and sponsors, and collaborates with domestic and international distributors and producers. The idea to create an international film festival was the brainchild of Karl Spoerri, who founded the festival together with Nadja Schildknecht and Antoine Monot Jr.. Karl Spoerri (Artistic and Strategic Director) and Nadja Schildknecht (Managing Director) are the festival’s current Co-Directors.

Festival centre at Sechseläutenplatz, Zürich


In 2004, Karl Spoerri and Tim Geser invited the renowned English digital film festival "onedotzero_adventures in moving image" to Zurich, where it was the guest of Zurich University of the Arts from October 29 – 31, 2004. This small-scale event developed into the Zürich Film Festival and brought together its core team.

In the spring of 2005, Karl Spoerri, Nadja Schildknecht and Antoine Monot, Jr. founded Spoundation Motion Picture GmbH, which has since been responsible for implementing the Zurich Film Festival and is currently managed by Karl Spoerri and Nadja Schildknecht. Karl Spoerri is the ZFF’s Artistic Director.

Theatres 1 – 6 at the cinema Plaza in Zurich’s district 4 provided the venues for the 1st Zurich Film Festival (October 5 – 9, 2005). The festival focussed on “Debuts” and screened approx. 8 premieres in one competition category. Further film line-ups included “Debut Classics” and “Züri Bellevue”. The first festival was well received by the public and attracted 8’000 visitors – the press and film industry reacted with initial scepticism towards the young event.

The 2nd Zurich Film Festival (October 2 – 6, 2006) took place in 2006 at the cinemas corso, Academy and Frosch – the Golden Eye was awarded for the first time in three competition categories (Young Feature Film, Young Documentary Film and Debut Feature Film). Additions to the programme included the ‘New World View’ line-up. The 2nd Zürich Film Festival attracted 18’000 visitors and 600 accredited film industry representatives.

The young festival took a huge leap forward in 2007 by extending its duration to 11 days – the festival’s current length. The films of the 3rd Zurich Film Festival (September 27 to October 7) were screened in the cinemas corso, Capitol, Frosch, Movie and Le Paris located along Zürich’s ‘Film Mile’. More than 50 world, European or Swiss premieres were presented at cinemas distributed along the quayside of Zürich’s river Limmat. The number of visitors rose within three years to 27’000. The Zurich Film Festival boasted a new Festival Centre located in the very heart of the city: A large marquee at Rathausplatz became the meeting point for cinema lovers and film workers. 2007 saw the festival programme expand to include the Zürich Coproduction Forum.

Zurich Film Festival continued to develop in the years between 2008 and 2012, with visitor numbers more than doubling. The cinemas ‘corso’ and ‘Le Paris’ have been the festival’s main screening venues for several years now; the cinema Arena Filmcity joined this list in 2011.

In 2009, Zurich Film Festival suffered a particularly unfortunate blow, which not only cast a shadow over the festival, but also made it known around the globe. Honorary guest Roman Polanski was arrested on arrival in Switzerland and held under house arrest for nine months. He returned to the Zurich Film Festival in 2011 to pick up his award two years later than planned.

In 2011, the Zurich Film Festival was offered guest rights by the city of Zurich to use the Sechseläutenwiese, where a new Festival Centre was erected. The Zurich Opera House became the new venue for the glamorous Award Night. The 2011 Zurich Film Festival attracted 51’000 visitors.

With the onedotzero section, Zurich Film Festival began bringing the most important and innovative festival in the field of digital film to Zürich in 2005. Even as a small independent film festival, the London-based creators were showing works by Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham, long before their names were made known to a wider audience. onedotzero_ch was the Swiss edition of the British festival, which took place within the framework of the Zurich Film Festival until 2011.

The ZFF added two films for children aged 6 and older, and two films for primary school children to its programme for the first time in 2012. Visitor figures reached a record 58’000.

With a total of 71'000 visitors, of these 4000 children and students, the festival has seen a more than 20% increase in viewer numbers in 2013. With 345 screenings of 122 film titles and some 450 national and international guests, Zurich Film Festival has once again experienced considerable growth.

The Zurich Film Festival continues on the road to success. With some 79’000 visitors in 2014, the festival’s anniversary edition saw a renewed increase in ticket sales by 11%. The 10th ZFF offered 145 films and 374 screenings. The very first‚ ZFF 72 Talent Contest’ was a huge success. A total of 235 individuals or crews of young filmmakers from eleven countries made a short film and submitted it to the contest.

Program and Sections[edit]



The competition presents only first, second or third directing works in three categories (each with 10-14 films):

  • International Feature Film Competition
  • International Documentary Film Competition
  • Focus Switzerland, Germany, Austria

The Golden Eye and Prize Money[edit]

  • A Golden Eye, the festival's main prize, is awarded in each category by a separate international jury. The Golden Eye is endowed with a 25 000 CHF cash prize (International Feature / Documentary Film) resp. a 20'000 CHF cash prize (Focus).
  • The public chooses its favourite film from all of the competition entries by giving votes to every film. The best voted film receives the festival's Audience Award.
  • The Swiss Association of Film Journalists presents their Critics’ Choice Award to the best narrative feature film in competition.

Jury Members 2005 - Present[edit]

The Golden Eye is awarded in each category by a separate international jury, who views the film during the festival in Zurich together with the public. The juries are not bound by any particular guidelines, they must, however, award the Golden Eye to just one film per category.

Year Category President Members
2015 Internationaler Spielfilm Elizabeth Karlsen Rosa Attab, Yann Demange, Maria Furtwängler, Katja von Garnier
International Documentary Film Catherine Dussart Abbas Fahdel, Alexander Nanau, Havana Marking, Joelle Alexis
Fokus DE, AT, CH Nico Hofmann Nick Brandestini, Anika Decker, Alexander Fehling, Birgit Minichmayr
2014 International Feature Film Susanne Bier Donald De Line, Marie Masmonteil, Jasmila Zbanic
International Documentary Film Steve James Nick Broomfield, Greg Gorman, Nishtha Jain
Focus DE, AT, CH Stefan Arndt Iris Berben, Jan-Ole Gerster, Peter Reichenbach, Anna Thommen
2013 International Feature Film Marc Forster Andrew Dominik, Thomas Imbach, Melissa Leo, Guneet Monga, Stacey Sher
International Documentary Film Elizabeth Radshaw Gabriel Mascaro, Ilian Metev, Eugene Panji
German Language Feature Film Veronica Ferres Jochen Laube, Rolf Lyssy, Manuela Stehr
Documentary Film DE, AT, CH Markus Imhoof Tizza Covi, Sabine Gisiger
2012 International Feature Film Frank Darabont Deborah Aquila, Daniél Espinosa, Carlos Leal, Pietro Scalia, Michael Shamberg
International Documentary Film Jessica Yu Mohamed Al-Daradji, Philippe Diaz, Janus Metz
German Language Feature Film Herbert Grönemeyer Peter Luisi, Florian Flicker, Julia Jentsch, Marcel Hoehn
German Language Documentary Film Gabriele Kranzelbinder Martin Hagemann, Stefan Haupt, Mirjam von Arx
2011 International Feature Film Laurence Fishburne Beki Probst, John Lesher, Paprika Steen, Alice Eve, Stefan Arsenjevic
International Documentary Film - Charles Ferguson, John Battsek, Stephen Nemeth, Eline Flipse, Nino Kirtadze
German Language Feature Film - Xavier Koller, Florian Keller, Pasquale Aleardi, Janine Jackowski, Florian Causen
German Language Documentary Film - Jacqueline Zünd, Christian Beetz, Güzin Kar, Vincent Lucassen
2010 International Feature Film Frank Langella Julia Solomonoff, Carlos Cuaron, Anatole Taubman, Sharon Swart, Barry Gifford
International Documentary Film - Chris Paine, Nenad Puhovski, Mark Lewis, Heidi Specogna, Jennifer Fox
German Language Feature Film - Johanna Wokalek, Christoph Schaub, Christof Neracher, Jessica Hausner, Frieder Wittich
2009 International Feature Film Debra Winger Pawel Pawlikowski, Randal Kleiser, Anahi Berneri, Dale Launer
International Documentary Film - Peter Liechti, Erwin Wagenhofer, Elizabeth Wood
German Language Feature Film - Niki Reiser, Martin Rapold, This Brunner
2008 International Feature Film Peter Fonda Stephen Nemeth, Dror Shaul, Hervé Schneid, Michael Dougherty, Andrea Staka
International Documentary Film - Walter Hügli, Lorna Tee, Christian Frei
2007 International Feature and Documentary Film Albert S. Ruddy Moritz Bleibtreu, Justus von Dohnanyi, Bettina Oberli, Matthew Modine, Dieter Meier
2006 International Feature and Documentary Film Ed Pressman Jessica Schwarz, This Brunner, Ueli Steiger, Oliver Hirschbiegel
2005 International Feature and Documentary Film Helmuth Karasek Sabine Timoteo, Michael Steiner, Sigried Narjes, Shane Walter

Competition Winners 2005 - Present[edit]

The Zurich Film Festival presents its Golden Eye awards to the winning directors in each category on the last Saturday of the event during a festive Award Night ceremony at the Zurich Opera House. Additional awards are conferred by the Swiss Association of Film Journalists (SVFJ) and the public (Audience Award).

Year Award Film Director Country
2015 International Feature Film Hrútar Grímur Hákonarson Iceland
International Documentary Film Los reyes del pueblo que no existe Betzabé García Mexico
Fokus DE, AT, CH Thank You for Bombing Barbara Eder Austria
Audience Award Amateur Teens Niklaus Hilber Switzerland
Children's Film Audience Award Supilinna Salaselts Margus Paju Estonia
Critics' Choice Award Pikadero Ben Sharrock Spain, UK
Treatment Competition Award Renatas Erwachen Stefanie Klemm Switzerland
2014 International Feature Film Una Noche Sin Luna Germán Tejeira Uruguay
International Documentary Film Toto and his sisters Alexander Nanau Romania
Focus DE, AT, CH Children of the Arctic Nick Brandestini Switzerland
Audience Award Zu Ende Leben Rebecca Panian Switzerland
Children's Film Audience Award Quatsch und die Nasenbärbande Veit Helmer Germany
Critics' Choice Award Svenskjävel Ronnie Sandahl Sweden
Treatment Competition Award Änneli Christine Wiederkehr Switzerland
2013 International Feature Film La jaula de oro Diego Quemada-Díez Spain
International Documentary Film Lej en familie A/S/ Kaspar Astrup Schroeder Denmark
German Language Feature Film Finsterworld Frauke Finsterwalder Germany
Documentary Film DE, AT, CH Neuland Anna Thommen Switzerland
Audience Award Journey to Jah Noël Dernesch, Moritz Springer Germany
Children’s Film Audience Award Believe David Scheinmann United Kingdom
Critics' Choice Award Finsterworld Frauke Finsterwalder Germany
Treatment Competition Award Project STÜRM – BIS ICH TOT BIN ODER FREI Dave Tucker United Kingdom
2012 International Feature Film Broken (2012 film) Rufus Norris United Kingdom
International Documentary Film The Imposter Bart Layton United States
German Language Feature Film Am Himmel der Tag Pola Beck Germany
German Language Documentary Film Der Prozess Gerald Igor Hauzenberger Austria
Audience Award Appassionata Christian Labhart Switzerland
Critics' Choice Award El último Elvis Armando Bo Argentina
2011 International Feature Film Take Shelter Jeff Nichols United States
International Documentary Buck Cindy Meehl United States
German Language Feature Film Atmen Karl Markovics Austria
German Language Documentary Film Darwin Nick Brandestini Switzerland
Audience Award Unter Wasser Atmen Andri Hinnen, Stefan Muggli Switzerland
Critics’ Choice Award Happy, Happy Anne Sewitsky Norway
2010 International Feature Film The Woman with a Broken Nose Srdjan Koljevic Serbia
International Documentary Armadillo Janus Metz Denmark
German Language Feature Film Das Lied in mir Florian Cossen Germany
Audience Award Stationspiraten Mike Schaerer Switzerland
Variety’s New Talent Award Adem Hans van Nuffel Belgium
Critics’ Choice Award Pal Adrienn Agnes Kocsis Hungary
2009 International Feature Film Wolfy Vasilij Sigarev Russia
International Documentary The Sound After the Storm Patrik Soergel, Ryan Fenson-Hood, Sven O. Hill United States
German Language Feature Film 66/67 – Fairplay war gestern Carsten Ludwig, Jan-Christoph Glaser Germany
Audience Award Waffenstillstand Lancelot von Naso Germany
Variety’s New Talent Award Amreeka Cherien Dabis United States, Kuwait, Canada
Critics’ Choice Award Applause Pieter Zandvliet Denmark
2008 Debut For a Moment, Freedom Arash T. Riahi Germany, Turkey
Fiction Tulpan Sergey Dvortsevoy Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Switzerland
Documentary Blind Loves Juraj Lehotsky Slovakia
Audience Award The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner Stephan Komanderev Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary
2007 Debut Chapter 27 Jarrett Schaefer United States
Fiction Bikur Hatizmoret Eran Kolirin Israel, France
Documentary Running With Arnold Dan Cox United States
Audience Award Twelve In A Box John McKenzie Great Britain
2006 Debut Omaret Yacoubian Marwan Hamed Egypt
Fiction Shortbus John Cameron Mitchell United States
Documentary Hammer & Tickle - The Communist Joke Book Ben Lewis United States
Audience Award The Hip Hop Project Matt Ruskin, Scott K. Rosenberg United States
2005 Debut The Italian Andrei Kravchuk Russia

Out Of Competition Film Sections[edit]

PRISONERS - Gala Premiere 2013
THE SESSIONS - Gala Premiere 2012

Gala Premieres[edit]

Each evening, the ‘Gala Premier’ section celebrates highly anticipated film premieres by established filmmakers in the presence of cast and crew. Both feature films and large-scale documentaries are presented in this section. The films are screened as world, European, German-language or Swiss premieres.

Selection 2013: RUSH by Ron Howard, ALL IS LOST by J.C. Chandor, AM HANG by Markus Imboden, DEVIL'S KNOT by Atom Egoyan, EXIT MARRAKECH by Caroline Link, GRAVITY by Alfonso Cuarón, LA VIE D'ADELE by Abdellatif Kechiche, LIBERACE by Steven Soderbergh, PRISONERS by Denis Villeneuve, THE RAILWAY MAN by Jonathan Teplitzky, etc.

New World View[edit]

The ‘New World View’ section presents a body of emerging, contemporary films from a particularly interesting film region. Only first, second or third directing works by filmmakers from each guest country are presented in this section. A short-film block, implemented in association with the International Short Film Festival Winterthur, also forms part of this section.

Year Country
2015 Iran
2014 India
2013 Brazil
2012 Sweden
2011 Turkey
2010 Australia
2009 Argentina
2008 Israel
2007 Russia

Border Lines[edit]

The Zurich Film Festival’s ‘Border Lines’ section, in collaboration with the emergency aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), presents feature-length and short films dealing with border situations occurring in current world events and humanitarian projects, territorial and social conflicts and conflicts between individuals and the state.

ZFF TVision[edit]

At the 10th Zurich Film Festival the new section "ZFF TVision" will be added to the festival's programme. The out-of-competition "ZFF TVision" section will present on the big screen productions that signal new trends and have garnered attention from the global TV world.

Honorary Guests and Retrospectives[edit]

Michael Haneke - A Tribute to... Award 2013
Richard Gere - Golden Icon Award 2012
Jerry Weintraub - Career Achievement Award 2012

A Tribute to... Award[edit]

The ‘A Tribute To…’ Award honours a personality from the film world who has been instrumental in influencing film history. The laureate collects the award personally in Zurich and usually imparts their knowledge and experience at a ZFF Masters.

Year Name Award
2015 Mike Leigh A Tribute to … Award
2014 Claire Denis A Tribute to … Award
2013 Michael Haneke A Tribute to … Award
2012 Tom Tykwer A Tribute to … Award
2011 Paul Haggis A Tribute to … Award
2010 Miloš Forman A Tribute to … Award
2009 Roman Polanski A Tribute to … Award
2008 Costa-Gavras A Tribute to … Award
2007 Oliver Stone A Tribute to … Award
2006 Stephen Frears A Tribute to … Award
2005 Rainer Werner Fassbinder Retrospective

Golden Icon Award[edit]

The Golden Icon Award was presented for the first time in 2008. It is an award bestowed upon an actor or actress in recognition of their life’s work. This award goes to a person who has become an icon for a whole generation and whose performance and work in film is unforgettable. Previous award winners are:

Year Name Award
2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger Golden Icon Award
2014 Diane Keaton Golden Icon Award
2013 Hugh Jackman Golden Icon Award
2012 Richard Gere Golden Icon Award
2011 Sean Penn Golden Icon Award
2010 Michael Douglas Golden Icon Award
2009 Morgan Freeman Golden Icon Award
2008 Sylvester Stallone Golden Icon Award

Career & Lifetime Achievement Award[edit]

The Career or Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon a person who has achieved excellence in the field of producing, directing or interdisciplinarity. The laureate receives a Golden Eye and is honoured with a retrospective.

Year Name Award
2015 Armin Mueller-Stahl Lifetime Achievement Award
Steve Golin, Liam Hemsworth Career Achievement Award, Golden Eye Award: The New A-Lister
2014 Michael Shamberg Career Achievement Award
Hans Zimmer, John Malkovich Lifetime Achievement Award, Golden Eye Award
2013 Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner Career Achievement Award
Harrison Ford Lifetime Achievement Award
2012 Jerry Weintraub Career Achievement Award
John Travolta, Helen Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award, Golden Eye Award
2011 Alejandro González Iñárritu Career Achievement Award
2009 Michael Keaton Lifetime Achievement Award

Industry Events[edit]

Film Finance Forum Zurich
Steven Gätjen and Harvey Weinstein - ZFF Masters 2013

Zurich Summit[edit]

This conference is held annually within the framework of the Zurich Film Festival at The Dolder Grand hotel. The 7th Zurich Summit will take place on September 24–25, 2016. Unique to the German-speaking world, this forum offers an exclusive platform where top-class representatives from the entertainment and film industries meet investors and representatives from the world of finance. Topics include production and investment strategies, film financing and risk minimising, distribution and European co-productions.

Speakers have included: Claudia Blümhuber (CEO, Silver Reel Partners AG), Marc Butan (Principal, MadRiver Pictures), David Glasser (COO, The Weinstein Company), Nicolas Chartier (CEO, Voltage Pictures), Georges A. Kern (CEO, IWC Schaffhausen), Ben Kramer (Film Finance Agent, CAA), Pierre-Ange Le Pogam (Principal, Stone Angels), Nick Meyer (CEO, Sierra/Affinity), Brian Oliver (President, Cross Creek Pictures), Helge Sasse (CEO, Senator Entertainment), Michael Shamberg (Principal, Masproduction), Greg Shapiro (Principal, Kingsgate Films), Roeg Sutherland (Co-Head of Film Finance and Sales, CAA), Christopher Woodrow (CEO, Vendian Entertainment).

ZFF Masters[edit]

The ZFF Masters are chaired discussions with celebrated personalities from the international film industry. They offer the public insight into the creative process and attitude to film of directors, screenwriters, producers and actors. These renowned experts are available for public question-and-answer sessions.

Speakers have included: Tim Bevan, Frank Darabont, Asghar Farhadi, Charles H. Ferguson, Harrison Ford, Miloš Forman, Marc Forster, Paul Haggis, Michael Haneke, Markus Imhoof, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Tykwer, Harvey Weinstein, Jerry Weintraub.

ZFF Master Class[edit]

The ZFF Master Class facilitates networking between young, talented filmmakers and leading experts from the film industry and imparts creative filmmaking know-how. Participants are given the opportunity to interact with established industry role models who are themselves exceptional filmmakers. The ZFF Master Class serves as a source of motivation and inspiration for young filmmakers.[1]

Speakers have included: John Battsek, Moritz Bleibtreu, Dario Suter & Joel Brandeis, Daniel Espinosa, Jennifer Fox, Stephen Frears, Costa-Gavras, Terry Gilliam, Christopher Hampton, Jessica Hausner, Markus Imboden & Jasmine Hoch, Janine Jackowski, Michael Keaton, Ken Loach, Guneet Monga, Pietro Scalia, Hervé Schneid, Michael Shamberg, Greg Shapiro, Stacey Sher, Oliver Stone, Jeremy Thomas, Christine Vachon, Benh Zeitlin.

Side Events[edit]

International Film Music Competition[edit]

Film Music Competition 2013

The International Film Music Competition was first introduced in 2012 and its venue alternates between the Tonhalle Zürich and one of the festival cinemas. The competition is a collaboration between the Zurich Film Festival and the Forum Filmmusik. French‐born pianist and composer Laurant Courbier is the winner of the second International Film Music Competition, which took place during the 9th Zurich Film Festival on September 27, 2013 at Arena Cinemas. Courbier received the Golden Eye endowed with a 10'000 Swiss franc cash prize for the ‚Best International Film Music 2013’.

Treatment Competition[edit]

In 2013, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) and Telepool Zürich launched - together with Zurich Film Festival - a new Treatment Competition. Authors are invited to submit a feature-length cinema or TV film treatment. The work must include a strong content-based, character-based or production-based connection to Switzerland. The Treatment Competition award is endowed with a CHF 5000 cash prize. The winner also receives a screenplay development agreement worth up to CHF 25’000 for the creation of a feature-length cinema or TV film screenplay.

ZFF for kids[edit]

On the 9th Zurich Film Festival the, ZFF for kids Audience Award' has been introduced and the screenings in this section have been expanded to total 14. The children's films are shown in the original language and simultaneously translated to German.

External links[edit]


  • Zürich Film Festival at Internet Movie Database IMDb [1]
  • Zürich Film Festival at The Hollywood Reporter [2]
  • Zürich Film Festival at Variety [3]
  • Festival reviews at outnow.ch: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 (in German only), 2012 (in German only)