Mike Leigh is one of Europe’s most significant auteur filmmakers. He has lived his passion for over 50 years and will, as he once put it, “still be a fucking artist when he retires”. Leigh’s ability to enthuse critics and viewers alike with such films as HIGH HOPES (1988), NAKED (1993), SECRETS & LIES (1996) and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008) is underpinned by countless awards, including a Golden Palm and seven Academy Award nominations. Raised in a working-class district of Manchester, Leigh is able to capture the sorrows and hardships of the ‘common people’ with humor and sensitivity. He is one of the leading exponents of New British Cinema, a genus of filmmaking that has performed a cinematic analysis of social developments in Britain since the 1980s. Mike Leigh will accept his award in person during the Award Night on October 3. ZFF offers insight into his work with a representative retrospective screened in his honor.
Todd Haynes is one of the most interesting personalities of the current independent cinema scene. Born 1961 in Los Angeles, the screenwriter and director is considered to be the pioneer of the 1990s coined “New Queer Cinema”. Haynes continually succeeds in undermining traditional narrative structures with his uncompromising and often sublimely erotic films. His directorial debut, the science fiction drama POISON, garnered the main award at Sundance in 1991. This master of semiotics has since picked up more than 46 international awards, including the Special Jury Prize at Cannes for his glam rock homage VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), the Special Jury Prize at the Mostra in Venice for his Bob Dylan biopic I’M NOT THERE (2007), and an Academy Award nomination for FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002).
Born in 1943, the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud began his career with a bang: his debut feature LA VICTOIRE EN CHANTANT, a parable about colonialism, won an Academy Award in 1977. Originally active in the advertising sector, Annaud’s name reached beyond the circle of purely French cineastes to include a much wider audience when he directed the multi award-winning literary adaptation THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986). His boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for spectacular themes enables him over and again to bridge the gap between art and commerce. The director of such cinema hits as SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997) and ENEMY AT THE GATES (2001) offers insight into his multifaceted work at this ZFF Masters session.
Dick Pope's passion and enthusiasm begins when reading scripts in which images blossom. Having studied painting and photography his whole life, the 68-year old Brite has been an avid photographer himself since childhood. In THE REFLECTING SKIN, one of his early films, the disturbing images that draw their inspiration from Andrew Wyeth is directly reflected. In Mike Leigh's MR. TURNER last year, he created another visual tribute to a great painter with his cinematography: Meticulous studies of lighting moods at all times of the day and whatever the weather allowed for exterior shots, the light and color applied to the canvas without CGI effects "Turneresque" - breathtaking work for which he was awarded in Cannes. Pope's collaboration with Mike Leigh goes back many years. Since LIFE IS SWEET, it has been Dick Pope's lifelike settings, landscapes of the human face, and authenticity that make Mike Leigh's films cinematographically so unique.
"A life lived lead to material for films and the questions that arise from them," aptly described by the film magazine Frame about the films of Sabine Gisiger. It had always been the existential questions of life, which the Zurich-based filmmaker wanted to explore in her documentaries. The 56-year old has been working in the film industry since 1990 and now shares her knowledge with film students as a lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts. One of her biggest successes is DO IT, the recipient of the Swiss Film Prize, in which she takes an uninhibited look at the history of Swiss terrorism. For GAMBIT, a documentary about the chemical disaster in Seveso, Italy in the 1970s, won the Critics Week Award in Locarno four years later and was garnered with the Max Ophüls Prize and the Swiss Film Prize. In her latest film DÜRRENMATT, a love story, Sabine Gisiger attempts to retrace Dürrenmatt's marriage to Lotti through archival material, a marriage that she herself has witnessed from up close as Friedrich Dürrenmatt was often a guest in Gisiger parents's home.
The Catalonian producer and director Luis Miñarro is considered one of the foremost proponents of Spanish auteur cinema. Like no other he especially defends the visual aspect of cinema. "It's totally ok that many people consider cinema as mere entertainment. For me, however, it is primarily art," Miñarro remarked in an interview with a Spanish film magazine. He has produced over 30 films with his production company, Eddie Saeta, founded in 1989, including festival favorites such as FINISTERRAE and LA MOSQUITERA. He was honored at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 with the Palme d'Or for the international co-production UNCLE BOONMEE WHO. Four years later, he completed his first feature film as a director with Stella Cadente. The film was received with two Gaudi Awards. The latest news was not a film announcement rather the headlines were about the closure of his production company. Despite its impressive filmography and international recognition, the producer had difficulties convincing both critics and backers, especially in his homebase, of his radically unconventional projects. But Miñarro has plans of retiring from filmmaking. His second directorial effort SALOME will shake up international film festivals in 2016.
Ruth Toma was born in 1956 in Lower Bavaria. After state exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich she started off as an actress and author in the independent theater group "Temporary Structures" and was active for nine years. Then she attended top postgraduate courses in film at the University of Hamburg where she graduated with honors. Many of her screenplays developed into successful film, including A SONG OF LOVE AND DEATH - GLOOMY SUNDAY, SOLINO, PEAS AT FIVE-THIRTY, EMMAS GLÜCK, SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT, 3096 Days, THE CHEF and television films ROMEO and THE LOST BROTHER. Ruth Toma is one of the most important German writers. Her scripts have won many awards, among them the German Screenplay Award, the Writer's Award of the Cologne Conference, the German Television Award, the Bavarian Film Award and the Adolf Grimme Prize.
Gabriel Mascaro is one of the most innovative, daring and successful Brazilian directors and artists of recent years, and that at just 32 years. His filmography includes six feature films to date, including four documentaries and two feature films, as well as various video installations. In his films Mascaro explores the boundaries between fiction and documentary. His avant-garde hybrid films bring the physical and sensual aspects of their protagonists into the foreground and combine traditional forms of storytelling in cinema with elements of the visual arts. For this reason, his works can also be found time and again in contemporary art exhibitions and museums. His biggest film success to date is titled VENTOS DE AGOSTO, which IndieWire described as a "beautiful meditation on life and death". The first feature film from Mascaro was honored among others at the Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema and the Film Festival Locarno. Gabriel Mascaro has already appeared with his documentary DOMESTICA in the section "New World View" at Zurich Film Festival in 2013. This year he presents his second feature film BOI NEON in Zurich.
Vincent Maraval's filmography as a producer reads like an outline of the most important arthouse films of the 2000s. As co-founder of Wild Bunch, a distribution and world sales company committed to the promotion of arthouse cinema, his roles include producer, co-producer and executive producer on a number of international productions. The Frenchman supported the artistic vision of great directors like Gaspar Noé, Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard, Abdellatif Kechiche, Nicolas Winding Refn, Claire Denis, Guillaume Canet, Vincenzo Natali, Cristian Mungiu, James Marsh, Stephen Frears, Abel Ferrara, Woody Allen , Darren Aronofsky, Steven Soderbergh, Fernando Meirelles, Peter Sollett and Larry Clark. Prior to joining Wild Bunch Maraval worked for TF1 and StudioCanal.
Werner Herzog considers him one of his favorites, Michael Haneke values his radicalism, countless young filmmakers are influenced by his visual language: We are talking about Ulrich Seidl, one of Austria’s most important filmmakers. Exploring the fine line between fiction and documentary, his film projects are fascinating and unsettling, seemingly far from reality yet disturbingly close to it. His body of works includes such award-winning films as TIERISCHE LIEBE, MODELS, and HUNDSTAGE. Seidl caused a sensation last year with his PARADIES trilogy, which won prizes at various festivals. PARADIES: GLAUBE was even honored with the prestigious Jury Award at Venice Film Festival. At the ZFF MASTERS, Ulrich Seidl offers us insight into his work: What fascinates him about the blending of documentary and fiction? How does he get to know his film’s protagonists?
Hans Zimmer is one of the most innovative, creative and celebrated film music composers of our time. With his fusion of the ordinary and the extraordinary, traditional instruments and synthesized sounds, the simple with the complex, he has been a pioneer in exploring cinematic worlds for 30 years. German-born Zimmer celebrated his breakthrough in 1988 with the music for RAIN MAN. He has since composed the music for over 100 films, a career dotted with an Academy Award® (for THE LION KING), two Golden Globes® and three Grammys®. Always on the lookout for exceptional elements in music and fearlessly breaking musical conventions, he has advanced to become one of the most versatile film composers of his time. His best-known scores include those for AS GOOD AS IT GETS, GLADIATOR, THE DARK KNIGHT, and INCEPTION. Zimmer is currently working on Christopher Nolan’s latest film INTERSTELLAR, which will be launched this coming November. Zimmer will speak at the ZFF MASTERS about the workings of a film composer. How can you take musical inspiration from the look and theme of a film while also adding your own accents? How does music influence the world of cinema and vice versa?
Ten years ago, Fatih Akin celebrated his powerful breakthrough with GEGEN DIE WAND. The compelling love story impressed both critics and audiences with the self-destructive drive of its protagonists and their strained Turkish-German identity. GEGEN DIE WAND was honored with multiple awards, among them the Golden Bear and the European Film Award, but it is only one of Akin’s many brilliant cinematic works. His first feature film, KURZ UND SCHMERZLOS, a harsh crime drama set in the director’s native quarter Hamburg-Altona won the Bavarian Film Award “Best New Director”. Love and homeland, Hamburg and Istanbul, great hopes and crazy ideas – these are the themes of almost all his films. But Akin is well versed in balancing sternness and gaiety, darkness and light. So his œuvre includes both melodramas – like the trilogy about “Love, Death, and the Devil”, whose second part AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE won the “Best Screen- play” award in Cannes – and light-hearted films: IM JULI is a sunny road movie, SOLINO an affectionate family chronicle, and SOUL KITCHEN a heart-warming comedy. Besides his work as a director, Akin also successfully participates in the German film scene as a screenwriter (KEBAB CONNECTION), producer (CHIKO), and actor (KISMET). After five years, Akin finally presents the last part of his trilogy: THE CUT will be screened at this year’s Zurich Film Festival.
Susanne Bier is one of the most accomplished Euro- pean filmmakers of our time. The Danish screenwriter and director is responsible for such internationally successful films as EFTER BRYLLUPPET (AFTER THE WEDDING) and BRØDRE (BROTHERS), a gripping depiction of a conflict among brothers amidst the emotional turmoil of the Afghan war. Due to its enormous success, the film was remade in Hollywood in 2009, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman. Bier realized her first US film in 2007 with THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE, a melodrama revolving around a family trying to cope with the loss of husband and father.Her family drama HÆVNEN (IN A BETTER WORLD) garnered the Academy Award® for “Best Foreign Language Film”, compellingly depicting a family’s coming to terms with the oppositional worlds of Europe and Africa as well as child and adulthood, and the straining dichotomy of revenge and forgiveness. At the ZFF MASTERS, Susanne Bier offers insight into her work as a filmmaker. What hurdles did she have to overcome to take a foothold in the male-dominated film indus- try? And what challenges face European film workers in Hollywood?
Having grown up in West Africa, French director Claire Denis has always grappled with subjects like identity and the transgression of social and cultural bound- aries. After studying at today’s La Fémis in Paris, she worked as an assistant director to Jacques Rivette, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, and others. She made her directorial debut in 1988 with CHOCOLAT, a quiet and sensible examination of (post-)colonial racial tensions in Cameroon. The solidarity with margin- dwellers and reflections on the social exclusion of the “other” have marked her following eleven feature films as well. In 1996, Denis received the Golden Leopard in Locarno for NÉNETTE ET BONI. Her film BEAU TRAVAIL three years later, the fourth collaboration with cinematog- rapher Agnès Godard, further reinforced her international acclaim. With works like the body horror film TROUBLE EVERY DAY as well as the dramas 35 RHUMS, WHITE MATERIAL, and LES SALAUDS, Claire Denis has established herself as one of the most important con- temporary filmmakers.
Swiss director Sabine Boss loves to tell stories of all kinds – a passion she has successfully pursued in film, television, and theatre since graduating from the Zurich University of Arts in 1996. Having set high standards for herself, Boss desired to expand her education as a film director by working at the Schauspielhaus Hamburg for three years. There, she gained deep sensitivity for working with actors – a much praised passion which she is passing on to film students in actor’s directing classes at the Zurich University of the Arts since 2011. In 2002, she realized her first feature film, the light-hearted political comedy ERNSTFALL IN HAVANNA, which remains among the Top 10 of the most successful Swiss films ever made. Boss regularly rises to the challenge of directing well- made television productions, too: Her writer-director debut STUDERS ERSTER FALL received critical acclaim for its innovative modernization of Friedrich Glauser’s novel “Matto regiert”. Her latest work is another film adaptation: With great insight and sensitivity she put Pedro Lenz’ best-selling novel DER GOALIE BIN IG on the big screen. For this, Boss was honored with the Swiss Film Award in 2014, and she proved once more her great ability to empathize with the challenges of human relationships.
DRIVE, a simmering crime tale of tenderness and brutality, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, a breath- taking revision of the beloved fairytale, and numerous captivating adaptations of literary classics – Hossein Amini is not only a versatile scriptwriter, but has a sure feeling for promising stories as well. For his adaptation of Henry James’ novel THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, starring Helena Bonham Carter, he received an Oscar® nomination in 1998. Before that, Amini captivated the bleak and shocking grimness of Thomas Hardy’s novel “Jude the Obscure” for the screen, which laid the foundation for the critical acclaim Michael Winterbottom’s JUDE received. In 2011, Amini’s script for DRIVE elevated him to the top league of international screenwriters: The film achieved overnight cult status, turned Ryan Gosling into one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors, and was nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. Amini’s most recent writing success is his directorial debut THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s thriller of the same name, which stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac.
Christian Petzold has become one of the most important contemporary German directors since he graduated from the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (dffb) 20 years ago. In 2000, he made his cinematic debut with DIE INNERE SICHERHEIT, which won the German Film Award. The film was also the kick-off for his “Gespenster Trilogy”, a succession of thematically affiliated films including GESPENSTER and YELLA. The trilogy composes a spectral image of contemporary Germany that oscillates between familiarity and strangeness, personal isolation and social invisibility. In 2011, Petzold collaborated with Christoph Hochhäusler and Dominik Graf on the TV mini series DREILEBEN, which consists of three crime films revolving around the same topic and characters but realized in different auteur styles. It was honored with the German Television Award. Petzold’s most recent film, BARBARA was also a big success; for his sensitive DDR-drama he was awarded the Silver Bear for “Best Director”. Petzold prefers to work repeatedly with like-minded film art- ists. Among them are actress Nina Hoss and director Harun Farocki, who passed away in July 2014.
Stefan Ruzowitzky is one of Austria’s most versatile directors. After his graduation, he started working as a freelance director, writer, and editor for television, commercials, and music videos. In 1996, he ventured to write and direct his first feature film TEMPO, a coming-of-age drama, which was awarded the Max Ophüls Preis for its perceptive depiction of Vienna’s youth culture. His next feature film, DIE SIEBTELBAUERN, was also a huge success and won many international awards, among them the prize for “Best Picture” at the Inter- national Film Festival Rotterdam. With ANATOMIE and the children’s film HEXE LILLI, Ruzowitzky demonstrated once again his versatility and aptitude to direct high-quality genre films with enormous popular success. The sensitive Holocaust drama DIE FÄLSCHER was Ruzowitzky’s international breakthrough: a great hit at festivals as well as in theaters and winner of the 2008 Oscar® for “Best Foreign Language Film”. In 2012, his first American film DEAD- FALL, starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Nadav Schirman is not only one of Israel’s most promising documentary filmmakers; the Frankfurt-based director and producer has a keen instinct for how to wrap a documentary as a dramatic thriller. His first feature documentary THE CHAMPAGNE SPY – centering on a son who discovers his father is a Mossad Agent – won the Israeli Academy Award for“BestDocumentary”. In 2013, he again explored family relations under pressure when shooting IN THE DARK ROOM, a film about the wife and daughter of terrorist “Carlos the Jackal”. Schirman’s latest coup, THE GREEN PRINCE marks the current high point of his career: The Israeli producer-director not only pushed the boundaries of the documentary genre by shaping a highly emotional and compelling thriller; he also crafted an intensely suspenseful and emotionally gripping narrative that was rightly honored with various awards, including the Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Due to the success of the documentary, a feature film based on THE GREEN PRINCE is currently in the making.
Stefan Arndt was born in Munich, Germany in 1961. Throughout his career he has produced over 20 films, most of which received international releases and worldwide critical acclaim. Together with directors Tom Tykwer, Wolfgang Becker, and Dani Levy, he founded the production company X Filme Creative Pool in 1994. Four years later, he celebrated his international break- through with Tom Tykwer’s LOLA RENNT. Many sucessful productions have followed, which earned him a total of 11 German Film Awards, 10 European Film Awards, 2 Golden Globes®, and most recently an Academy Award® and the Palm D’Or for AMOUR. For 20 years, Arndt has mastered the balancing act of producing sophisticated films which nevertheless appeal to wide audiences. With THE CLOUD ATLAS he realized the most expensive German film to date, but he still remains a supporter of young German film- makers and established directors of the European art house scene. As producer, distributor (X Verleih AG), and one of the founding fathers of the German Film Academy, he has established himself as a distinctive figure in German film industry.