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.
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.
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.
The UK documentary film producer John Battsek’s breakthrough came with ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film in 2000. Battsek’s more recent works tackle issues relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the executive producer of RESTREPO, which was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film, and won the Sundance Festival’s Grand Jury Prize. Battsek was the executive producer of BETTER THIS WORLD, which enjoyed a Special Screening at the 2011 Zurich Film Festival.
Renowned producer Jeremy Thomas is the owner of the Recorded Picture Company, which was founded in 1974. He became known for his commercially successful and critically acclaimed films. The multi-award winning Brit works with highly individual directors, yet remains true to his vision of what ambitious independent cinema should be. Jeremy Thomas has produced such classics as Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE LAST EMPEROR (1987), masterpieces by Nicolas Roeg, Takeshi Kitano, Nagisa Oshima, Volker Schlöndorff and David Cronenberg and outstanding debut films like Jonathan Glazer’s SEXY BEAST (2000) and David Mackenzie’s YOUNG ADAM (2003). In his ZFF Master Class, Jeremy Thomas used selected examples to discuss in detail these productive collaborations and the development of his projects.
Born in 1936, the British director and screenplay writer Ken Loach is one of the most prestigious European filmmakers. Social drama forms the thematic focus of his work and reflects Loach’s socialist beliefs. Loach attracted a lot of attention with his 1966 debut film CATHY COME HOME. He won the Golden Palm at the 59th Cannes Film Festival in 2006 with THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY. Further awards include the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, which Loach received for his life’s work in 1994, and the prize awarded by the Ecumenical Jury at the 2004 Berlinale for JUST A KISS. Ken Loach’s workshop talk opened the 2008 ZFF Master Class series and concentrated on MY NAME IS JOE, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY and IT`S A FREE WORLD.
Stephen Frears is one of Britain’s most renowned film directors. Among the more than 40 films he has directed since 1966, those based on books by Hanif Kureishi like MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, were precursors for a strong, magical realism that enriched the British and later the European cinema throughout the 1990s. As diverse as his films such as DANGEROUS LIAISONS, HIGH FIDELITY, THE GRIFTERS, ACCIDENTAL HERO, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS or most recently THE QUEEN appear, they all impress through their precise narration and concentrated characterizations. Frears has worked with such famous actors and actresses as Julia Roberts, Audrey Tautou, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Dustin Hoffman, and discovered such talent as Jack Black and Daniel Day-Lewis.